As Christians, we believe that we have access to absolute truth through not just reason and natural law, but also divine revelation. We believe in the Bible as the revealed Word of God and also that the author of life Himself broke into our earthly world as a man. The implications of this belief are profound, to say the least.
As Catholics, in full communion with the Bishop of Rome (the successor of St. Peter), we can draw upon the immense riches of Church teaching in facing the deep questions of life. Too many people are unaware of the great beauty and truth we have in Church teaching!
For today, let us reflect on these two significant passages below. First, we have the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate addressing the big questions that all people have and the perspective of the Church on the responses offered by other religions:
“Men expect from the various religions answers to the unsolved riddles of the human condition, which today, even as in former times, deeply stir the hearts of men: What is man? What is the meaning, the aim of our life? What is moral good, what is sin? Whence suffering and what purpose does it serve? Which is the road to true happiness? What are death, judgment and retribution after death? What, finally, is that ultimate inexpressible mystery which encompasses our existence: whence do we come, and where are we going?
From ancient times down to the present, there is found among various peoples a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers over the course of things and over the events of human history; at times some indeed have come to the recognition of a Supreme Being, or even of a Father. This perception and recognition penetrates their lives with a profound religious sense.
Religions, however, that are bound up with an advanced culture have struggled to answer the same questions by means of more refined concepts and a more developed language. Thus in Hinduism, men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust. Again, Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination. Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing "ways," comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.(4)”.
At our most fundamental level, each person realizes that he was made to love and to be loved. This truth, and the necessary relationship between truth and love, are contemplated in the 2009 encyclical letter of Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas In Veritate:
“Charity in truth, to which Jesus Christ bore witness by his earthly life and especially by his
death and resurrection, is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of
every person and of all humanity. Love — caritas — is an extraordinary force which leads
people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace. It is
a force that has its origin in God, Eternal Love and Absolute Truth. Each person finds his
good by adherence to God's plan for him, in order to realize it fully: in this plan, he finds his
truth, and through adherence to this truth he becomes free (cf. Jn 8:32). To defend the truth,
to articulate it with humility and conviction, and to bear witness to it in life are therefore
exacting and indispensable forms of charity. Charity, in fact, “rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor
13:6). All people feel the interior impulse to love authentically: love and truth never abandon
them completely, because these are the vocation planted by God in the heart and mind of
every human person. The search for love and truth is purified and liberated by Jesus Christ
from the impoverishment that our humanity brings to it, and he reveals to us in all its fullness
the initiative of love and the plan for true life that God has prepared for us. In Christ, charity
in truth becomes the Face of his Person, a vocation for us to love our brothers and sisters in
the truth of his plan. Indeed, he himself is the Truth (cf. Jn 14:6).
Charity is at the heart of the Church's social doctrine. Every responsibility and every
commitment spelt out by that doctrine is derived from charity which, according to the
teaching of Jesus, is the synthesis of the entire Law (cf. Mt 22:36- 40). It gives real substance
to the personal relationship with God and with neighbour; it is the principle not only of
micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of
macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones). For the Church, instructed by the
Gospel, charity is everything because, as Saint John teaches (cf. 1 Jn 4:8, 16) and as I
recalled in my first Encyclical Letter, “God is love” (Deus Caritas Est): everything has its
origin in God's love, everything is shaped by it, everything is directed towards it. Love is
God's greatest gift to humanity, it is his promise and our hope.”
As we proceed on our exciting daily journey to deepen our relationship with God and our understanding of human life, let us also share with our brothers and sisters the great window into absolute Truth that we have through the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ!
“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." (Matthew chapter 7)