Saturday, August 23, 2014

Grappling with Freedom and Truth

Truth And Tolerance.
Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal (2009-11-24) 
Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.

"It has thus become fairly clear that freedom is linked to a yardstick, the yardstick of reality—to truth. Freedom to destroy one-self or to destroy others is not freedom but a diabolical parody. The freedom of man is a shared freedom, freedom in a coexistence of other freedoms, which are mutually limiting and thus mutually supportive: freedom must be measured according to what I am, what we are—otherwise it abolishes itself. Now, however, we come to a substantial correction to the superficial present-day picture of freedom that has hitherto been largely dominant: If the freedom of man can only continue to exist within an ordered coexistence of freedoms, then this means that order—law—is, not the concept contrary to that of freedom, but its condition, indeed, a constitutive element of freedom itself. Law is not the obstacle to freedom; rather, it constitutes freedom. The absence of law is the absence of freedom."  (Kindle Locations 2891-2897)

I picked up this book and read it this summer, seeking insight into the embarrassed silence of many in the West, which has contributed to the whole tragedy of ISIS and the menace to Christianity everywhere from this so-called caliphate in the Middle East. As always, in this collection of essays our dear Pope emeritus does not disappoint; he teaches clearly. The gem quote above is one of my favorites from the book, but as a whole, especially in dealing with the consequences of the Enlightenment as failure today, I may want to read this book again soon to better mine its treasures. Beyond finding here once again witness to the gentle but secure approach of the Ratzinger of a lifetime, which staunchly defends law as constitutive of freedom, my reading has led me to become even more convinced that tolerance of error in others should not, must not diminish Catholic Truth. Indeed, error has no rights. Truth, the yardstick of reality, is not to be attained without faith, cannot be in the world without the knowledge of God, Creator and Savior of the world, which comes to us revealed to the full by God's Incarnate Love. "Going it alone", muddling through in a world without God, is not an option.

I doubt if anyone would be much surprised if I found application here also to my world, to the dilemma posed by the present crisis in Ukraine as well. There have been times since last November, but most especially since the flight of former President Yanukovych and attempts through violence and terror by him and his clan with Russian support to establish a base of operations in the south and east of the country, when it must seem to many Ukrainians that half the world refuses to speak the truth in the midst of fighting and maneuvering which never ceases to claim the lives of combatants and innocent bystanders. We don't create for ourselves a reality or claim one for ourselves on the market of ideas; we have a yardstick to measure what is real, truth.

Truth is not truth if it is modified by anything other than the definite article. There is no truth except the truth, that which comes to us from God in Jesus Christ.

"Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” John 18:36-38

"Barabbas", if you will, is not a choice; choosing him over Jesus is an act of despair, a denial of the hope which God gave to the world in Christ the Lord.

The yardstick of reality: Where do I find assurance of the good will of the other, if not in the possibility of measuring, yes, judging his words and deeds against that yardstick? Sincerity might be feigned, but the truth cannot.

No doubt, we will have to await the Day of Judgment for the absolute triumph of the truth, when sheep will be separated from goats. Please God, that we, that I not be found lacking in that measure on the Great and Terrible Day!


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