Monday, January 28, 2013
A new form of atheism....have we succumbed to it?
"I had a little tea party this afternoon at three.
Twas very small - three guests in all - just I, myself and me.
Myself ate all the sandwiches, while I drank all the tea.
Twas also I who ate the pie, and passed the cake to me."
- Author unknown.
In his January 19th audience with workers and leaders of Catholic charities and members of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Pope Benedict XVI warned that while there is "a growing consensus today about the inalienable dignity of the human being" and people's interdependence and responsibilities toward others, there are also many "dark spots" that are obscuring God's plan.
The Holy Father warned of a new form of atheism which views people as independent and autonomous with happiness lying solely in realizing one's own self. Here the Pope is referring to those who are crippled by the sin of selfishness, a sin as old as humanity which has taken deep root in the heart of "modern man." As Archbishop Fulton John Sheen reminded us, "Selfishness does not mean that there is not to be a proper love of self. Our Blessed Lord told us: 'Love thy neighbor as thyself' (Mt 19: 19). God made 'self' the standard by which the neighbor is to be loved. This could not be, if love of self did not have a legitimate basis. Selfishness, is the love of the wrong self; that is, the self that is indifferent to the feeling and the interest and the safety of others. People are not selfish because they wish to earn enough to raise a family, but they are selfish if they consult only their own gains regardless of the losses that they may bring on others." (Essay entitled Selfishness).
The Lord Jesus has put us here on earth to serve Him and not ourselves. Many today, and sadly even within the Church, have succumbed to a philosophy of self-indulgence which is often indicative of pride and may even represent a failure to trust in the Lord, a practical atheism which renders others invisible and irrelevant.
Damien Fisher, writing for The Gardner News, relates the story of Vietnam veteran Jesse Stallings, a soldier who became invisible and irrelevant to those around him who should have welcomed him. Mr. Fisher writes, "Jesse Stallings served in Vietnam, and then came home to a difficult life. His trouble coming back and becoming part of society again was partly because of the negative attitudes many had about the Vietnam War, and by extension, the men who fought it. Mr. Stallings' troubles also stemmed from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition not widely understood at the time, and not well-treated either...Mr. Stallings was proud to put on his uniform to march in the parade in Fitchburg, one of the first in the region to welcome Vietnam vets....But his long hair and beard did not mesh with how the other, older veterans wanted him to look. He was sent away. Dejected after leaving the parade ground, Mr. Stallings went home and killed himself." (MVOC opens new Winchendon campus, January 26-27 edition of The Gardner News).
Have we become so self-indulgent that others have practically become invisible to us? We can answer this question only through honest self-examination. Hence the need for frequent sacramental confession. Self-deception is so very easy. As Saint Francis de Sales noted, "Self-love is cunning; it pushes and insinuates itself into everything, while making us believe it is not there at all."
If we wish to deepen our relationship with the Lord Jesus and to be of genuine service to Him, then we must struggle against self-deception and be completely honest with ourselves, petitioning the Lord to reveal to us our hidden motives and attachments. And then we must, with the help of His grace (without which nothing is possible), reorder our priorities.
Related meditation here.