Opening the doors to eternity

by Bishop Michael Olson

North Texas Catholic

11/14/2017

“The eyes of the world see no further than this life, as mine see no further than this wall when the door is closed. The eyes of the Christian see deep into eternity.”   
— St. John Vianney

What does seeing deep into eternity really look like? It involves being able to recognize, to appropriate, and to cherish the eternal and transcendental goods of truth, beauty, and goodness. These three transcendental goods depend upon each other within the envelope of eternity.

TRUTH. We see truth through the door of knowledge. This opens to us through such subjects as theology, philosophy, history, logic, science, and mathematics. Other supportive disciplines include the norms of grammar and the rules and strategy of athletics. Truth enables us to belong to a community with a shared history greater than ourselves or our own fabrication. Truth provides order and peace through justly-measured prioritization. Truth enables us to recognize and to meet those human needs we cannot meet by our own individual power by providing an objective measure by which we can agree on priorities among shared goals and discern the appropriate means to attain them. Truth opens the door through the wall of egotism and selfish interests, enabling us to see deeply into eternity. 

Without truth, a selfish narrative takes over and dominates each one of us and damages the common good of our society. 

BEAUTY. We see the eternal good of beauty through art, music, literature, poetry, and drama. Beauty, closely related to truth, affords us hope. Beauty enables us to share the joy of immaterial goods beyond those material goods that can be measured and quantified. The study and practice of art and literature at every level opens the doors that allow us to pass through the walls of materialism and consumerism, providing an egress through the wall of selfish narrative that otherwise would lock us into darkness. 

Without the good of beauty, the arts become only raw spectacle that shocks us with fear and desensitizes us to hope. Without the good of authentic beauty, the arts become valued only if they can be quantified and sold. This replaces character with celebrity in the fiber of the artist’s profile.

GOODNESS. We experience goodness through the study and practice of religion. Religion holds us together with the eternal. Religion offers the encounter spiritually with He whom I cannot manipulate or control but can only worship — God. Religion enables us to see the goodness of the world because of its status of being created by God — “and God saw that it was good.” Religion enables us to see clearly the dignity of the person because of the person being created in the image and likeness of God. Religion enables me to witness and value with reverence the goodness of embodied human beings differentiated naturally for a procreative purpose — “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Religion enables me to see the goodness of a person not as an object but as someone with a name and a family. Religion enables me to see myself as created by God for a purpose. 
 

Without the door of religion, we remain trapped behind the wall of hedonism — where goodness becomes valued in things or persons only by the limited measurement of sense experience — that which is physically pleasurable or emotionally stimulating.

The mission of education throughout our lives is to unlock and to open these doors of truth, beauty, and goodness. Without these opened doors, we remain locked behind the walls of egoism, materialism, consumerism, and hedonism. Without these doors, education loses its mission, becoming simply the skills training needed for one to navigate the darkened room or to build other walls within the darkened room.

I ask each of us to examine our consciences and our lives. Where does each of us encounter truth, beauty, and goodness in our own lives? What literature do we read? What music informs our soul? What do we study to expand our knowledge? What do we believe as our religion and how do we practice it? 

The transcendental goods of truth, beauty, and goodness provide us with a clear measurement for the Christian virtues of faith — by which we know truth; hope — by which we perceive beauty; and charity — in which we encounter goodness in communion with our neighbor in the very life of God in Whom our souls find rest.

What does seeing deep into eternity really look like? It involves being able to recognize, to appropriate, and to cherish the eternal and transcendental goods of truth, beauty, and goodness. These three transcendental goods depend upon each other within the envelope of eternity.

Published (until 11/14/2032)
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