God is love, our faith teaches us. Jesus reaffirms that our response to God’s love is to love God and neighbor. Is there evidence of God’s love? Many people reject religion because of the lack of direct evidence. Indeed, atheism can result “from a violent protest against the evil in this world.” (Vatican II, GS 19.2) The “God love you!” greeting can be platitudinous amid great suffering: war, genocide, terrible health afflictions. Why should we believe in and worship an all-good God?
Faith is distinct from reason and direct experience. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1) However, Psalm 119 validates faith with the experience of abiding by God’s law. Amid worldly chaos, the Psalm proclaims the beauty and integrity of God’s law. We remain blameless and pure and not put to shame. We know that the delights of God’s law exceed the rewards of riches. We walk in understanding and wisdom with righteousness that gives life. We outwit the cunning of our enemies. We are fortified in times of affliction, enduring the taunts of enemies. We turn to God in worship in praise of His precepts. The law-abiding habits of the simple bring them greater understanding and wisdom than the rich and aged. The love of the law and its practice bring joy and fortify our faith.
A young child learns to delight in God’s law. Children sense the burden of sin at times more than adults. They know when they “fighted with my brother and sister,” they stand accused. As a child receives the absolution of the Church for his petty crimes and misdemeanors, he rejoices. Parents delight in the glow of their children as they emerge with joy after completing their First Penance.
From childhood, some seldom go off the rails of morality by committing mortal sin as they remain close to God’s path of correct living. They know the peace of soul and joy that flows from abiding by God’s law. But such pristine virtue is exceptional. We are a Church of saints, to be sure, but predominantly a community of sinners.
As we consider the deadly sins—pride, anger, lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, and envy—we recognize their potential for causing unhappiness. Experience teaches us that vices enslave us. The sin of lust provides a ready example of slavery. Acts of impurity that expand to masturbation, contraception, fornication, adultery, and sodomy not only ruin souls. These vices consume us and bring unhappiness and chronic—often subliminal—anger.
Our culture extols impurity as a human right, but it is the gateway to horror. In a riveting public confession before execution, serial murderer Ted Bundy took responsibility for his heinous acts but attributed his psychosis to his unrepented addiction to the pornography of detective novels (relatively mild by today’s standards). The profiles of mass murderers includes love deprivation, isolation, loneliness, and addiction to pornography. Likely, every one of those young gunmen opening fire on helpless innocents was not only deprived of the love of parents, but they also spent countless hours viewing pornography and/or connected to the most violent video games. We are witnessing the dread consequences of the false God of the 60’s Me Generation that playfully promoted the modern sexual revolution.
The prophets of Baal were more straightforward in their idolatry. During Elijah’s famous confrontation with them, the prophets gashed themselves during their false worship: “And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice; no one answered, no one heeded.” They could not know the love of God.
Just as the prophets of Baal had no realization of the horror of their self-mutilation, our Godless culture is unaware of its madness. Various layers of the government now fund genital mutilation in the name of pride, diversity, and even Constitutional rights. The accelerating degradation of our culture reflects the nearly complete abandonment of faith in the one God and observance of His Commandments.
So it’s baffling to hear many bishops and priests attack God’s law in the name of love and advocate changing the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and contraception—celebrating mutual masturbation. They seem unaware that undermining the Church’s traditional teaching on the Ten Commandments and Natural Law subverts confidence in the immutability of divine wisdom and undermines faith in God’s love.
We encounter the love of God when we abide by His Commandments. Although we do not know their private demons, it’s a disturbing probability that these bishops and priests have seldom experienced God’s love by faithfully living God’s law. (If they don’t object to mutual masturbation, why would they object to onanism in private?) Their dissent is a reckless imposition of their faithless unhappiness on the Church. Unlike Abraham, who intervened on behalf of the innocent in Sodom (cf. Gen. 18:20-32), the clergy frequently scorns and abandons faithful Catholics. When we tinker with the precepts of morality by disregarding God’s authority, we undermine our confidence in God’s love.
Our experience of the joys of abiding by God’s law fortifies our faith in the certainty of God’s love. A penitent in the confessional struggling to live God’s law knows more about God’s love and human freedom than those faithless bishops and priests agitating for doctrinal change. Yet, we are not lacking in conversion accounts: King David’s Psalm 51, the tears of Saint Peter, and Saint Augustine’s Confession. Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis—composed after reading Dante’s Inferno while imprisoned for sex crimes—is a modern literary classic of repentance.
We all have our individual conversion stories known only to God. So let us forever delight in His law, respond to the sting of conscience, and rejoice at the prospect of freedom in the love of Jesus. “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (Jn. 8:32)
God is love.
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Posted by: tjbenjamin -
Jul. 28, 2022 6:14 PM ET USA
I wonder if the bishops and priests advocating for changing Church teaching believe they will stop losing parishioners if the Church goes along with the perverse secular culture. I also wonder if people leave the Church to avoid paying a church tax, which some European countries have. Are these factors?
Posted by: TheJournalist64 -
Jul. 28, 2022 6:06 PM ET USA
Exactly right, Fr. Jerry. We need to stand forthrightly and in public to celebrate the joy of God's law. Maybe we should prescribe psalm 119 for all parishioners, reminding them that the Law is a Law of self-sacrificial love and faithfulness.