Saint Pope Pius X once said that there is a great heresy, a false teaching, blowing through the world in our day – and he called it the collection of all the world’s heresies into one – and he said it is basically the denial of the supernatural.
The longer I’ve been a priest, the more I see what he’s saying. If you think the world is a machine, and everything is determined by chemistry and biology and that everything that happens in the universe can be calculated, then the problem is this – there is no gratitude.
Not thankfulness, because there’s nothing to be thankful for. It is all science, and math and physics and genetics and neurons, it all has an explanation, even though no one has the explanation, many people tell themselves “surely smart people have the explanation for everything” or at least “surely someday smart people will FIND an explanation for everything”
As a person who wants to see everyone happy and at peace, who wants to see everyone know and follow Christ, what breaks my heart in this denial of the supernatural is that so many people tell themselves a monstrously awful thing: so many today say that if they saw a miracle, they would certainly recognize it.
Let me say that again, people tell themselves the lie that if they saw or experienced a miracle, they would know it.
Since people tell themselves that they don’t experience any miracles, since they don’t see anything miraculous happening, there is nothing to be thankful for, nothing to have gratitude in our hearts for, so we become a hard and cynical people who rip each other apart on line, are lonely, and addicted and depressed because nothing miraculous ever happens.
We’ve said before that the current generation is walking away from the Faith at an epic level, and it is happening today around the age of 13, and the studies suggest it is largely over this supposed clash vs. science and Faith.
I want to say something here: I’ve talked before about the fact that I studied math, but I realized I need to say something if it might help a teen who sees “what can be proved by science” and Catholicism proposes as being at odds.
I was the Calculus student of the year in high school, and I was the math student of the year my junior and senior year in college, and I was really close to going and working on at least a masters in mathematics before deciding to go to the seminary. I know it is absolutely gross to talk about yourself, but I would say I’m probably better at math and science than 98% of 13 year olds – I know – a really high bar. But St. Paul does this also to make a point – he says no one was a more devout Jew than I.
I say this about my science background in order to say “I’ve never seen anything in math or science that contradicts anything in my Catholic Faith. AND, on the other side of that, I’ve had tons of things that I’ve seen in math and science that have confirmed and strengthened by Catholic Faith.
But if me making a fool of myself talking about college math doesn’t help, I also reached out to a medical doctor, two people I know who are in med school, and the best chemistry brain I’ve ever seen, and I’ve asked lots of Catholic scientists and mathematics people the same questions. None of them report ever having their Catholic Faith challenged by anything in science, and they also report, though, what they have seen, as strengthening their Faith a great deal.
Gratitude comes from realizing we’ve been given something, that there is such a thing as kindness and love, and gifts, and that we’ve been given a gift.
And what is the gift? What are the miracles we’re missing?
One of the most amazing things I’ve seen in a while was a video clip of about 90 seconds. CNN host Anderson Cooper was interviewing Steven Colbert who is the rare Hollywood person that doesn’t brandish about his Catholicism but also never seems to be ashamed of it.
And the video gets right to the heart of what we’re discussing – miracles – gratitude and whether we have anything to be thankful for at all. Whether anything special ever happens or we’re all just chemicals bumping into each other in a machine.
Anderson Cooper, in the midst of a larger interview where I’m told they dive into politics, set that all aside and go watch the 90 second clip.
Colbert lost his father and two brothers in a plane crash when Colbert was only 10. Cooper starts to ask Colbert a question, and as Anderson Cooper asks the question – he gets choked up. The question he gets out through tears is this:
“you once told an interviewer to love the things you most wish had not happened. You went on to say “what punishments of God are not gifts” Do you really believe that?
Colbert says “Yes, it is a gift to exist, it is a gift to exist, and with existence comes suffering, there’s no escaping that…if you are grateful for your life, you have to be grateful for all of it”
They went on to talk more about suffering and Christ and Catholicism, and it was, in my estimation, the Church’s teaching on the gift of existence even in the face of suffering, all condensed into 8 minutes. I hope you’ll go seek it out.
Colbert said, in that interview, the key Catholic rebuttal to those who want to strip out mystery – it is a gift to exist
We are grateful when we are given gifts.
And gratitude is what fuels religion, it is what fuels our Catholic Faith and our world view.
I’m here tonight/today because God has given me many gifts – some I see, but MOST I don’t see
9 run off after being healed from leprosy and don’t think to say thanks.
They don’t see the miracles of their own healing, so they run off without a word of thanks, on to the next thing.
Many of us do the same
Don’t tell yourself that if a miracle happened you would know it
Let us be the Samaritan who sees the miracle of his healing, and return to Christ. Let us also say to Christ tonight and always the two words that will totally change our relationship with Christ: “Thank you”