samedi, mai 23, 2009

The pursuit of happiness

Sermon for the fifth Sunday after Easter
The optimist considers that the absolute good that he seeks can be gained through the realization of his earthly hopes. The “pursuit of happiness” that is considered as an inalienable right of man in the American Constitution, is a specific product of such an optimistic mentality. At a first look, you may not see what is wrong with that. Is it not legitimate to pursue happiness? The answer is: yes it absolutely legitimate. Now it depends on how do you consider happiness and how do you seek it. Aristotle in his time already said that all men acknowledge that the supreme good is happiness, but right after, he added that there are different opinions concerning the nature of happiness. Basically, there are three main common opinions. Happiness resides in pleasure, in honor or in wealth.
It is interesting to see how Aristotle considers these three theories and how much his thought is very topical today. After all, it is not really surprising. Gustave Thibon has well said that Things have not really changed in two thousand years. The same repetition of error and evil commands the same repetition of truth and of good. We can see regularly here and there a champion of change claiming that a new era is about to begin and that the only thing we need is to believe in it. "Yes, we can!" he claims. Is there any novelty in this belief? If it is something new, it is at the very least already 300 years old. Charles Péguy in his time had already denounced the oldest error of the world that is repeated at every generation like the sap that rises every spring. This very ancient error is to believe that man can remake the society according to his wish. But, as Gustave Thibon points out, there is a conformism of revolt and chaos as there is a conformism of order. It seems after all that our innovators and heroes of change, of liberty, of nonconformism are more traditional than they believe. The Revolution has indeed its own tradition. The progressive and the modernist people have their own traditions. They have them so well, that we can anticipate their so called novelties. They say that nothing will be as before. Let us answer them: the more it changes, the more it is the same thing!
Certainly, the Revolution has different faces, and Gustave Thibon, speaking about this, notices that the ideological and moral contents of the various revolutions were totally different. But their authors were all similar in the way that all of them believed that they could perform a deep and lasting transformation, and they lived on the pretention that nothing would be as before. In a certain way there were right: everything, in general, became worst.
And as long as the great majority of men, especially those who are in charge of the destiny of our nations, believe that the supreme good resides in an earthly happiness, it will continue to get worst. And we will continue to see optimistic people saying that it can be better. To the question: “is the pursuit of happiness truly an inalienable right of man?”, let Our Lady answer.
Our Lady told Bernadette Soubirous: I don’t promise you to make you happy in this world, but in the other. Our Lady, seat of wisdom tells us what true happiness is. We can find it only in God. Aristotle had already discovered that happiness is a divine gift, in the highest degree among all human things and that it is the best of all things. And he added that every man can find it. What is his definition of happiness? It is an operation of the soul that is conform to virtue! Not too bad for a pagan! The Christian Revelation would confirm this definition and perfect it. Man’s happiness must of necessity consist in an operation, Saint Thomas Aquinas says. In fact, perfect happiness consists in an act of our intellect, which is nothing else than the vision of the Divine essence. This is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God! (Jn 17,3)
This is not the optimism of the world, but the concrete reality of the nature of things. It is something that the innovators and the revolutionaries have forgotten. Even the naturalists do not understand the natures of things because they do not acknowledge the principle of nature. The optimism of Rousseau led the world to a global Revolution that finally becomes a world without God. Most of our contemporaries continue to believe in the noble savage myth and their optimism is nothing but an illusion.
And of course, they will accuse us of being pessimistic. With Gustave Thibon, we answer that we simply believe in original sin. The philosopher even adds: I do not need to believe it; the evidence exempts from faith. Are we pessimistic? We are simply Christians. We believe in original sin, but we believe also in the Redemption. Yet, as Thibon says, at the level of appearances, the balance between sin and Redemption is not equal. Sin is an evil that devastates all men and breaks out everywhere. But the benefits of Redemption remain in a very large measure virtual, for the great majority of men neglect or refuse to receive them. It is not enough that a remedy is infallible and universal. The sick must also use it.
It is legitimate to pursue happiness, but it can be find only in God and in the gift of Redemption. Refusing this gift can only leads to the ruin. The modern philosophers and politicians think they can provide happiness in this life. Our Lady promises it in the other life. Between illusion and reality, we should not hesitate. May Our Blessed Mother help us to make the good choice.

3 commentaires:

Anonyme a dit…

Dear Father Demets,
Congratulations for the text!
I would like to know about the Thibon's
citations. In what books by Thibon are they?
God bless you.

Father Demets a dit…

Well, the quotes of Gustave Thibon are from the book ' L'ignorance étoilée' I am not aware of any English translation of his books.

Benedicta a dit…

Il est drolement bien votre Gustave Thibon.
Est-il relativement facile a lire? Autrement il faudra se contenter de vos citations pour le connaitre et mieux l'apprecier.