Science has done so much good for our world and we as Christians have to acknowledge that fact. We acknowledge that through technological advances, the world has become a better place to live. Life for some people has become good enough to live here for eternity. However, many times this world wants to deny the limitations of science.
Name: Martino Nguyen
Thursday, January 31st, 2002
Truly no man can ransom himself… for the ransom of his life is costly and can never suffice, that he should continue to live on forever and never see the pit” (Ps. 49: 7,9). Psalm 49 addresses directly the eschatological crisis in modern times. I do not think that we have a crisis, but a confusion of what eschatology is. There is certainly much talk about eschatology in our times; it has not been forgotten. The real problem humanity faces is that we do not know whom we should believe. We have come so use to living our earthly life that we would do anything to live here forever. Since we have become so attached to this world it is obvious that those who propose life without end in this world either through reincarnation or through some other, way have gained many followers. We want to do everything that is possible to remain here for a longer time, or if it is possible to remain here forever.
Throughout history whether we talk about or not, the words of the psalm remain clear, “No one can avoid seeing the pit.” It is a shocking reality for those who have built an earthly paradise to know that they will die one day. It is hard for so many people who enjoy a good life on earth to admit that this life could come to an end at the blink of an eye. The tragedy of September 11 reminds us that we are not here forever. This life is only a quick step on our way to eternity. St. Paul says, “This world is passing away.” Last year I had the opportunity to go back to my country after 12 years. I was surprised to see that everything had changed so much. I felt that I was in a foreign land and not in my home country. The country I grew up in had changed so much that I thought it had passed away just like St. Paul says. I tried to recognize the places where I grew up, but they were different places and different people live there now. I went there a few days after the earthquake, which took the lives of more than a thousand people, and left many other people homeless. It was surprising when I went to Mass on the day I got home to see so many people attending daily Mass. When I read through Schwarz paper, I concluded that the people of El Salvador were looking for the hope that comes from beyond. Neither new age movement nor science could give them a believable or satisfying answer after the uncertain future and frequent after shocks that followed the earthquake. I was very happy to see that my people were able to find the hope and the faith that they needed to endured their trail in the Church and the sacraments.
Science has done so much good for our world and we as Christians have to acknowledge that fact. We acknowledge that through technological advances, the world has become a better place to live. Life for some people has become good enough to live here for eternity. However, many times this world wants to deny the limitations of science. People look for all their answers in science even for eschatological matters. Schwarz states that some people prefer to hear from a scientist or from a physicist instead of theologians for the answer to the after life. This is why we see movements such as the new age movement drawing the attention of so many people who are searching for answers about the after life. One of the problems of the new age movement is that it deceives man to believe in super power of the intellect which through reincarnation is able to bring humanity to perfection. The quest for answers to the after life has led humanity to search for divine power that we do not posses.
What has led us to these confusions? I think one factor is the human quest for eschatological answer in the highly secularized world. The big problem our current understanding of the after life is the position of the secular humanist whose belief try to deal with death by defining death in their own way. They believe death to be the end life with no possibility for life, and they confront that reality as it is. They accuse religion of denying the real effects of death and do not see any hope for future deliverance. Those who seek for answers to the after life do not know whom they should ask these questions. Schwarz states that in a culture that has no metaphysical values left, the world is thrown back to its own predications which most times does really give any ultimate solution to eschatology, but only expresses the selfish way of the founders of movements, such as new age, which have neither a good religious foundation nor a scientific one. Instead they elevate the human spirit to a level in which, they claim, humanity is capable of redeeming itself. However, Schwarz notes that after all the atrocities that humanity has committed, it should be clear to us that the words of psalm 49 are true even today that “Man cannot ransom himself.”
Man does not want to admit that ever since we changed from confidence in God to self-confidence we are running in circles that even the Buddhists tell us “that such running in circles is unbearable” (Schwarz 12). We need to break out and attain true fulfillment. Mostly what we need is hope. Schwarz tells us hope has to do with the sense that something better is possible. We know that the dream of a perfect life here is impossible; history has proven that fact. History also reminds us that the world is probably not going to get much better. This is reality, yet we cannot live this life without hope.
From where is that hope going to come? It does not come from within but from beyond. It comes from the One who created and holds everything in being. It comes from God. We as Christians must show the world that God is our ultimate goal. Modern man must understand that even scientific progress “as long as God provided the goal at the end of history and beyond it, it had a definitive goal.” (Schwarz, 10) Today, we must look at ourselves and acknowledge that no matter what solutions modern man proposes to the question of eschatology; if the answer is not grounded in the one “who created and sustains all” the answers to the last things would not give us any hope nor would they give us any definitive goal. No answer to the eschatological question will ever give us an ultimate solution to the after life unless that answer comes from beyond. Therefore, we as Christians must show the world that we are people of hope and have a clear goal in mind both of which do come from us but from beyond. We are bound for heaven because the present world is passing away and no one can avoid seeing death. However, despite those two realities our hope sustains us, and we continue to be confident and unafraid.