The danger of replacing God PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 16 April 2016 13:35

REFLECTION

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

We need to be wary of the danger of replacing God with our own philosophies, ideologies and theologies. This reminder was practically voiced out in Pope Francis’ “Amoris laetitia,” the apostolic exhortation on the family.

In its point 311 we read the following words: “Although it is quite true that concern must be shown for the integrity of the Church’s moral teaching, special care should always be shown to emphasize and encourage the highest and most central values of the Gospel, particularly the primacy of charity as a response to the completely gratuitous offer of God’s love.

“At times we find it hard to make room for God’s unconditional love in our pastoral activity. We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance. That is the worst way of watering down the Gospel.

“It is true, for example, that mercy does not exclude justice and truth, but first and foremost we have to say that mercy is the fullness of justice and the most radiant manifestation of God’s truth. For this reason, we should always consider inadequate any theological conception which in the end puts in doubt the omnipotence of God and, especially, his mercy.”

These words practically make us think that we might be strait-jacketing God and his omnipotent mercy with our all-too-human albeit brilliant ideas, schemes and categories. This danger is highly probable precisely because the more brilliant, more practical, more exhaustive we think our ideas are, the more we also think that wealready know everything, or that there’s little else to be known.

This thinking runs counter to the experiences of saints and great men. The Greek philosopher Socrates, for example, said: “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” And all the saints, including the very brilliant St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, practically had the same sentiment and in so many words also said that the more one learns, the more one realizes how little he knows.

This is all because the more one knows, the more he gets immersed in the mystery of God and of the whole creation. There is a sensation that the more one progresses in knowledge, the more he needs to know more.

This does not mean that we cannot know anything thoroughly. We just have to admit that the thoroughness of our knowledge cannot exhaust everything that can be known about a certain thing. Rather, it increases our awareness that there are a lot more, even infinitely more, to be known.

Thus, our quite developed and rich philosophies, ideologies and theologies, while offering a lot of knowledge already, should always defer to the reality that there is still a lot more to be known. A philosophy, ideology or theology that stops at what it has already discovered and developed, and is contented with it, is not a good philosophy, ideology or theology.

With respect to mercy, we should not tie the hands of God who readily gives mercy to all. The fact that Christ died on the cross in propitiation for all the sins of men, including those directly involved in his crucifixion, is the supreme proof that God through Christ in the Holy Spirit forgives everyone readily. “For God did not his send Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (Jn 3,17)

Yes, we also have to attend, as far as we are able, to the requirements of justice, making atonement and reparation for whatever harm and damage our sins and mistakes might have caused, but we should be ready to forgive. The requirements of justice and truth should not stand in the way of forgiveness. These can be worked on in other ways and in another plane.

This divine way of dispensing justice is definitely not easy to do. Here we have to go very slow and discerning. God’s law, or the Christian ideals and standards, just cannot be applied indiscriminatingly on everyone.

Divine justice is not blind justice, represented by the image of a blindfolded woman with a scale and a sword. Rather it is very attentive and gives due consideration to the different situationsand conditions that people can find themselves in. From there, it acts according to a certain law of gradualness.

This law of gradualness has parts that already are quite defined by moral teachings of the Church. But there are also parts of it that can only be known as long as the party concerned continues to seek light from God. These are the parts that can be known only by those who are pious and most faithful to God.