Reflection: An opportunity to
By Andrew Murray SM
An act of faith is a choice to assent to things that we know neither
through perception and experience nor through demonstration and
argument. In our religious context, we give such assent both to
things that could never be seen or demonstrated and to things that
are beyond demonstration for any one of us because of lack of ability
or of opportunity to study in a certain way. What we call the Christian
faith is confident trust in God on the basis of the life and teaching
of Jesus Christ.
The closing decades of the last millennium were a time in which
people in our society and culture became less and less inclined
to make acts of faith that implied the acceptance of Christian faith.
It was most evident in the disinclination of many people to act
in ways consistent with strongly held religious beliefs. Many explanations
might be given for this phenomenon, and it is unlikely that anyone
yet understands it fully, but I would like to explore one explanation.
These decades were decades of great certainty about what we could
see and about what science could secure for us. Television brought
images of events around the world, often in real time, so that we
could work out what was going on at the same time as, or even on
occasion ahead of, the commentary. Science and technology seemed
capable of answering all our inquiries and of solving all our problems.
We expected, for instance, that medicine would cure all our pains
and discomforts. We were used to economies that for the most part
ran smoothly. The disruptions of war or famine were hardly remembered.
All of this changed when the towers of the World Trade Centre came
crashing to the ground. They were meant to be able to sustain the
impact of an airliner, yet they turned to little more than dust.
Aeroplanes on scheduled routes became potential bombs. The institutions
of state security were left speechless. We have yet to learn the
full implications of this event.
What I want to suggest is that we have a moment when the certainties
of seeing and reasoning are shaken. It is a moment that could lead
to profound nihilism, but it is also a moment when a search for
understanding might lead to preparedness to act in faith. In this
there is a challenge to religion to present its beliefs in ways
that are meaningful to those who are searching.
The Catholic Church, has like everybody else, been caught on the
hop. A measure of our health will be the speed with which we can
adjust to the issues that now face the world. Our faith has much
to say, but agendas of the days prior to September 11 are now obsolete.
The opportunity of the moment is also the challenge to engage faith
thoughtfully with a world that is significantly changed.
Fr Murray teaches philosophy at the Catholic Institute of Sydney.