Without God, Man Loses Himself


In his General audience on 21 November 2012 during the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI pointed out that it is through Faith we come to knowledge not only of God but also of ourselves. Moreover he made the rather startling statement: ‘It is reasonable to believe our existence is at stake.’ 

Pope Benedict teaches us that Faith is about our very existence. And Aesop’s Fable about ‘The Crow and the Serpent’ perhaps serves to illustrate the point which the now Pope Emeritus was making.

A crow in great want of food saw a Serpent asleep in a sunny nook, and flying down, greedily seized him. The Serpent, turning about, bit the Crow with a mortal wound.

In the agony of death, the bird exclaimed: ‘O unhappy me! Who have found in that which I deemed a happy windfall the source of my destruction.’

‘I have found in that which I deemed a happy windfall the source of my destruction.’  How often has this been true for us individually and for the entire world?

How often have we told ourselves if I can just get that job, buy that house, get that car, marry that person, make this amount of money, then I will be fulfilled and happy?  But when we actually realise these goals, we far find that not only are we not fulfilled, but those very things for which we worked so hard to achieve are destroying our lives, our relationships, our families.

How many times have political leaders, and most certainly all dictators, come into power promising to be saviours and turn out to be the ones who cause more misery and suffering?

All addictions – from drugs and alcohol to work or even a personal relationship – start out as pleasurable and something that will bring deep joy and meaning to our lives, and end up instead wreaking great havoc.

And so we ask, is there anything in this world that will not become a ‘source of our destruction’?

Pope Benedict answers that ‘without God, in fact, man loses himself.’  He points out that in order for anything in this life to be truly successful, it must be centred around Faith, which is our relationship with God.

Anytime our lives are not centred on our Creator, we are walking a destructive path and it is only through Faith that we can have a relationship with God.

Moreover this is a relationship that can only be initiated by God for Faith is a gift we receive from our Creator and not something we can manufacture on our own.

So it that we are completely dependent upon our merciful God, who always stands ready to pour His Love out upon us for He has told us:

Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. 

Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. 

For my yoke is sweet and my burden light. (Matt. 11:28-30)

Edward Barrett