I don’t know any real policemen who blow people to pieces every week and then go have dinner. Most real policemen pray to God when they strap on their service revolver that they never have to use it. And should they have to, they are normally devastated afterwards. It goes without saying that the Hollywood view of reality, whether in sex or violence, is fantasy, not reality. A serious danger comes when people’s worldview is formed by this fantasy and they start to live according to it, as many deranged people do.
So what is reality? This is the central question of the science of metaphysics, a branch of philosophy, and it is precisely the neglect of Catholic metaphysics that has left so many people confused as to what is really real.
God is Reality, and His Reality is expressed to us in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is God’s Revelation to us of Himself and all Reality. “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” God is the Ground of all Being. When Moses asks God who He is, the answer is “I AM WHO AM.” God reveals Himself in the first person verb, to be. He is.
The New Testament speaks of the distinction between “The World” and “The Reign of God.” St. Augustine calls this “the City of God” and “The City of Man.” Today we speak of “The Secular World” and “The Church.”
As Catholics, we are called to live in accord with the mind of God as mediated to us by the Church, especially through the Magisterium, the Church’s teaching office. Unfortunately, many Catholics today have had their thinking formed more by the spirit of the world than by the Spirit of God, Whom Christ promised would be the Church’s guide in speaking the mind of God.
Many teachings of the Church, such as those on artificial birth control and ordination of men only, for example, are simply incomprehensible to today’s secular mind. But when viewed through the true Spirit of the Church, the eyes of love, they take on previously unseen and unimagined beauty and cohesiveness.
The Church is not a democracy but a family, and its rules can only be understood through the eyes of love. Love is a mode of knowing. This love which causes the scales to fall from our eyes is called conversion. Conversion is a result of falling in love with Jesus Christ. Just as we can never love enough, we can never be converted enough.
A young swinging bachelor may view marriage as something that restricts his freedom, just as some view the Church. He views marriage this way until he falls in love. Then he wants to be worthy of his beloved and protect this precious bond — even from himself and his weaknesses. For this he accepts vows made before God. He wants to be bound to his beloved — that becomes his true freedom. The “rules” of what he previously viewed as a confining institution are now submitted to eagerly and with joy. Jesus is the spouse of the Church — He is our bridegroom.
The Church is not an “institution” but an organism, the Body of Christ, and organisms follow natural laws. The rules of the Church make no sense unless we are in love with Jesus Christ. Who would be motivated to be faithful to a spouse they’ve never met? But love inspires, motivates, and renders beautiful. Jesus freed us from the law, leaving us free to embrace the law of love freely and willingly. All Church teachings are rooted in, and are expressions of, love. Sometimes tough love, but love nonetheless.
Jesus is Reality, and he has entrusted the Truth about Reality to the custody of the Roman Catholic Church. The ultimate reality of any given thing is the degree to which it conforms to God. The degree to which it does not conform to God is the degree to which it is illusion. When Jesus commissioned Peter and the apostles, He said, “He who hears you hears me.” He also prayed, “Not only for them, but for those who will come after them.” That’s us.
We very badly need to recover this view of reality as a culture. In Ephesians, St. Paul says, “…you must lay aside your former way of life and the old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire, and acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking.”
Those who say the Catholic Church better get in touch with ‘Reality’ are themselves living under an illusion. Christ is Reality and the teachings of the Catholic Church are the road map of Reality in the Landscape of Love. The Real Reality stood up over death and illusion on the First Easter Sunday and has been calling us to Reality ever since. This is the Reality of the Church.