Relativism and indifference

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The astonishing advancement of science, technology and social changes has equipped us with an unprecedented individual and personal power to influence the history of humanity. This is a treasure of gigantic proportions that we are yet unable to grasp.

Are we truly God’s creation, or simply the consequence of evolution? Are there transcendental principles, or are they just imposed dogmatism? Does our moral living make a difference in the world, or is it just another form of learned behavior of our time? Do each of us have a soul that lives beyond the earthly existence of our bodies, or does it all end with our death? Is science able to respond to all those mysteries, or is there room for faith?

The last hundred years have cast doubt on any principle that seemed absolute, calling it retrograde obscurantism. How do we Christians respond to these challenges? Pope Benedict XVI used to say that we had fallen under the dictatorship of relativism. Our current pope, Francis, has repeated several times that the gravest sin of our present-day society is indifference.

The apostle Peter, in his first letter to the Christians of the time, said that we had to always be prepared to “give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” (1 Peter 3: 15) Pope John Paul II, during his papacy, invited us to deepen the dialogue between reason and faith in documents such as his 1998 encyclical letter Faith and Reason, where he emphasized that these are the “two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ became one of us so that he could teach us, by his existence, the fullness of truth. The search for the truth and the consequences of proclaiming it shake the very foundations of the human soul. Jesus himself, aware of this inner process in his mind and in his heart, exclaimed, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Luke 12:49)

None of us sinful humans possesses the absolute truth, but this does not mean that we should conform to make all truths relative, no matter how small they are. God calls us to live radically whatever part of the total truth we discover, so that this radicalness would give us the courage to continue perfecting that same truth. If we don’t live it that way, we can easily fall into mediocrity and the lukewarmness that Jesus condemned. The truths that we discover must serve as launch platforms for greater heights; greater heights of forgiveness, tenderness, justice, joy, gratitude, solidarity, etc. As disciples of Jesus, we can’t remain indifferent to a father and his child who drowned while trying to cross the border in search of work opportunities and survival. We can’t remain indifferent to another school shooting that takes the lives of innocent youth. We must continue to question the proliferation of recreational drugs, etc.

The fire of the love that Jesus brought us must burn inside of us, so that we can have new and deeper responses to give to each human being that is born to this world.

Our Christian vocation prompts us to contemplate the truth of our existence as a service mission on behalf of God, who sends us to the world as he sent his Son Jesus, to transform the self-centered “I” into a loving “us,” capable of destroying the blinding individualism of humanity. Jesus condemns the rich man’s conformism, because he walks by Lazarus at his door indifferent to his poverty, never questioning his own life of opulence or stopping to think about why this beggar lives in such conditions. (see Luke 16:19-31)

Relativism and indifference are, in my opinion, malignant tumors in the souls and consciousness of Christians that must be removed as soon as the first symptoms appear — otherwise they will grow until they become a lethal presence that threatens the sacred humanity that Jesus wished to create.

The wisdom of the Gospel and charity service to the most vulnerable in our social surroundings will always be the best radiation therapy against that type of cancer; likewise, the body and blood of Christ received in the Eucharist. These are, undoubtedly, the best chemotherapy our souls can receive against those threatening tumors in our journey of faith.

Mary, Joseph, the apostles and all the men and women that we call saints discovered and embraced the absolute love and wisdom of our God Creator — a love and wisdom that are embodied in Jesus, who came to bring the divine fire to our souls, so that we can light up a world that is shivering from cold indifference.

“I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

Read the Spanish version of this column.

Northwest Catholic - October 2019

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo

Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., is auxiliary bishop of Seattle and vicar for Hispanic ministry.

Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., es obispo auxiliar de Seattle y vicario para el ministerio hispano.