The shyest girl in my Sunday School class wrote the best letter to Pope Benedict XVI when he decided to step down from the papacy. Her joyful, “Thank for being our very special Father” was an inspiration to me. It seemed like a “God thing” when I began working on another writing project and came across all kinds of “Benedict Quotes” in my files. The more I read his quotes, the more I see what a “very special Father” he really has been!
He told the young people at World Youth Day in 2008, “Do not be fooled by those who see you as just another consumer in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth.”
That one sentence is pregnant with so much power!
1) “Choice” has become synonymous with “good” in our morally sick world. Insisting on choice is not, in and of itself, a good thing. I may insist on making the choice to never clean my house or hit the dog or drink and drive—but insisting on such choices will never mitigate their wrongness.
“Good” is something that exists when we align our choices with God. Then and only then do we “make good choices” because God IS Good. And it is freeing to choose Him, because it means being released from the slavery of sin. The devil likes us to make bad choices because that leads along a downward spiral of hopelessness. The woman decides she doesn’t want to be pregnant. She chooses an abortion. She knows about killing. She begins to feel depressed.
“Pro-life” embraces the gift of life which is “good.” “Pro-choice” only embrace “options” which keeps the door open for the self-absorbed.
2) The Pope said, “Novelty usurps beauty.” We see this truth all around us in the search for new “highs”. “Beauty” is a standard associated with “goodness.” Sunsets have beauty. Flowers, with their patterned leaves and delicate colors, convey beauty. Beauty refreshes the soul. It is a perceptual experience of harmony that leads to a sense of joy. It harkens to the Beatific Vision…when we come to see God it will be the ultimate experience of joy, truth, goodness and beauty.
So, thinking that new games, skimpy fashions or self-absorbed lifestyles will lead to happiness is a gross, misunderstanding of what is important. Our hearts long for beauty because we have come from the Beatific One!
3) The last in Pope Benedict’s list of warnings to young people is that “subjective experience has displaced truth” in the modern world. It used to be we understood that individual feelings and desires do not define reality. It is commonsense. Just because I felt hurt when someone looked at me funny, doesn’t mean that person is evil and out to get me! He could be having a bad day. I may have misread the expression. The person may have been glaring at someone behind me. There are a whole host of possible explanations outside of my immediate experience. The way to find out what is “true” is to do some research, ask some questions and look for the Big picture. The real beacon for understanding Truth is to “take it to God.”
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” All goodness, beauty, wisdom and essence can be found only in one place.
Here is another quote from Benedict: “The religious sense planted within the human heart leads us…to search for concrete ways to contribute to the common good. Religion…teaches people that authentic service requires sacrifice and self-discipline, which in turn must be cultivated through self-denial, temperance and a moderate use of the world’s goods.”
Thank you Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI…we still love you. You have been a good guide.
Copyright 2013 Judith Costello, OCDS