6th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Joseph Levine; February 14, 2021
Readings: Lv 13:1-2,44-46; Ps 32:1-2,5,11; 1 Cor 10:31-11:1; Mk 1:40-45
The past two Sundays I have spoken about Jesus coming to destroy the works of the devil and part of this work involves exposing the falsehoods and lies the devil has spread among the human race. I have insisted that it is not enough just to promote the truth, falsehood must also be exposed and condemned.
In particular, I have spoken again of the heresy of modernism, which tells us in general that the Church must change to catch up to the times, rather than calling the times to repentance. Last Sunday, looking more deeply into the matter I pointed out how modernism involves a loss of faith in the reality of God and the promise of eternal life.
The loss of faith in the reality of God has gone hand in hand with an unbounded faith in the authority of science. Instead of believing in Jesus and following Jesus, we are now told to ‘believe in science’ and ‘follow the science’.
The problem is that science is really just a very limited investigation into the measurable aspects of material reality, a type of investigation that has been exalted far beyond its limitations into the absolute standard of reason and truth. Since science only considers material, measurable reality, this ends up reducing knowable reality to what is material and measurable. This necessarily excludes both God and right and wrong, morality.
Human psychology cannot endure this reduction, so God and morality come back into the picture not by way of knowledge but by way of personal experience and feeling. This, however, is different for different people. This means finally that God is one thing for one person and another for another. Right and wrong is one thing for one person and another for another. This is relativism.
We can also look as this cultural phenomenon of modernism and relativism from the perspective of today´s Gospel and speak of it as a leprosy of the mind. This leprosy of the mind blocks people from recognizing within themselves the spiritual leprosy of sin, which thereby keeps them from confessing their sins so as to be cleansed by Jesus.
Today real leprosy is very treatable, but in the ancient world it was a dreadful disease, slowly disfiguring a person’s bodily appearance and impeding the sense of touch, causing numbness and weakness especially in the hands and feet, making a person to become very clumsy. It is also mildly contagious, apparently through prolonged contact with someone who is infected. The tremendous social stigma of leprosy arose from the combination of contagion and ugliness. In sum leprosy caused ugliness, loss of touch, and clumsiness.
We can quickly detect the symptoms of mental leprosy in the ugliness and isolation that characterize our modern world.
The mental leprosy that afflicts the modern world is visible in the ugliness it has produced, from modern art, to bloated cities characterized by architectural monstrosities, to environmental destruction. I’m sorry, computers and cell phones are ugly. These are all products of the leprous mind.
This techno-world that is the fruit of mental leprosy, for all the ‘connection’ brought about by revolutionary means of transportation and communication, has left people lonely and isolated, amid broken and non-existent families. This isolation has been revealed and reinforced by the isolating mechanisms of the pandemic dictatorship. The human world is day by day becoming more inhuman. Humanity is being destroyed.
We have to go to the sense of touch, though, in order to get at the root of our mental leprosy. Touch is the sense of reality. The modern mind has lost touch with reality.
Leprosy is a slow developing disease and the modern leprosy of the mind has grown slowly. We can go back to the 17th century to detect some of the 1st symptoms in the famous and influential philosopher, Rene Descartes, who could be called ‘the father of the modern mind’. He is most famous for his dictum, “I think therefore I am”. The background for that dictum is that he thought it necessary to prove his own existence. That is because he began his whole philosophical enterprise with a radical doubt whereby he judged that he had to justify not only the mind’s access to reality, but even his own existence.
From Descartes we can move on to the great luminary of the so-called Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant. He proclaimed a ‘Copernican Revolution’ of the mind saying that hitherto men had supposed that the mind conformed to reality, but that henceforth we must suppose that reality conforms to the mind. Had he been speaking of the divine mind, he would have been correct, but alas he was speaking of the human mind.
It is easy to make fun of Descartes and Kant and together with them the whole philosophical enterprise. Much of modern philosophy is indeed worthy of mockery. Yet these men were actually brilliant and persuasive. Further, philosophy has had a potent real-world impact on everything from politics to business to education.
One way to be put it is that now we have ‘universal education’. Everyone, including those who end up governing cities, states, and nations, goes to school and learns from ‘teachers’. Who teaches the teachers? The university professors. Who taught the university professors? Ultimately, it was the philosophers like Descartes and Kant. I would dare say that even science owes its exalted status to the philosophers.
Now this leprosy of the mind has reached such a point that the President of the United States, the Vice-President, the Speaker of the House, the giants of the Silicon Valley, other Forbes 500 companies, and their leaders, the nation’s major media companies, and also the major universities all seem to take it for granted that a person’s sex is not a given but is merely assigned at birth. Consequently, if a person thinks he is a man, then he is a man, likewise if a person thinks he is a woman, then he is woman, biology and genetics notwithstanding. Indeed, the insanity goes further, he might be neither a man nor a woman if in his mind he thinks that he is some form of “non-binary” or “gender-fluid”.
Quite literally the world seems to have taken leave of its senses and lost touch with reality; that is a sign of the advanced leprosy of the mind.
Is it any wonder then that we are also surrounded by mental clumsiness that is evident in the use of language that seems incapable of making distinctions.
People throw around the word ‘equality’ as though it were a magic charm, without thought for the way human beings are truly equal, or what sort of inequalities that make up a part of human life are necessary and healthy, and what sort of inequalities are indeed unjust. So also people speak of ‘progress’ without answering the obvious question about where we are progressing to and if that is actually good. How can they, since that would require an understanding of what is good, that stands independent of relativism. Meanwhile, ‘liberty’ is regarded as an unqualified good, without anyone noticing that actually it is a means and not an end. On the other hand, ‘discrimination’ is spoken of as though it were an unmitigated evil, though no one notices that without ‘discrimination’ there is no judgment of any sort, and judgment is actually one of the basic functions of the mind, without which thought is impossible.
Now, someone might tell me, “Don’t just go around criticizing, give us a solution.”
This demand for a solution might be the very source of the leprosy. The demand to propose a solution presupposes that it is within our capacity and indeed it is our responsibility to ‘solve the problems of the world’. This is a very modern attitude. The fathers of modernity like Rene Descartes and Francis Bacon certainly saw themselves as ‘solving the problems of the world’. Yet, the history of the scientific-technological revolution has shown that for every problem ‘solved’ ten new problems emerge. This has led to the monstrous complexity of contemporary life that can no longer be grasped and assimilated by the human mind. The new idol we have fashioned for ourselves is the computer, capable of crunching the data.
We have solved many health problems, but now we have been brought low by a ‘pandemic’ that would make our ancestors laugh at our terror over such a trivial matter. Meanwhile, we can wonder what evils will be unleashed by all our attempts to control the virus and end the pandemic. We certainly have no clue as to the long-term effects of our experimental vaccines. Our track record actually has not been that good.
Now we are also trying to solve the problem of ‘climate change’ without ever asking the question as to whether it is at all wise for the human race to enter into the matter of global climate control. It starts to seem as though we are trying to take the place of God. For all the ways human beings complain about God, we should at least have the wisdom to recognize that we are poor substitutes for him.
Now, if we can at least recognize the affliction of our mental leprosy, we can turn to Jesus and say, Lord, if you will, you can make me clean. Cleansing the physical leper was an easier task, but all things are possible to God.
The Acts of the Apostles speaks about God purifying hearts by faith. (cf. Acts 15:9) These days we think of the heart as the seat of emotion, but properly in the Bible the heart is the core of the person, the seat of intelligent decision and commitment, it is a metaphor that includes both the mind and the will. Faith involves both: the will moves the mind to assent to the truth revealed by God, trusting the authority of God who can neither deceive nor be deceived. (cf. Vatican I, Dei Filius, Ch. 3)
God reveals two sorts of truth, supernatural truths that we could never come to know apart from divine revelation, like the mystery of the Holy Trinity and the reality of divine grace whereby we share in the life and nature of God, and natural truths, which the human mind is capable of discovering through its native power. (cf. Vatican I, Dei Filius, Ch. 2) Examples of these natural truths would be the existence, might, wisdom, and goodness of God and also the common principles of the moral law. (cf. Wi 13:1-5; Rm 1:19-20) The revelation of these natural truths was necessary because otherwise the human mind would find it difficult to discover them, except through long study, with little certainty, and with much admixture of error.
Another important natural truth that God revealed is the God created them male and female. (Gen 1:27) Who would have thought that it was necessary that something so obvious be revealed by God?
The truths that God has revealed to us through Scripture and Tradition are the things that it is most important for us to know and the ignorance of which is most inexcusable, especially given that God has made these things known to us.
If we recognize that our minds our contaminated by the mental leprosy of the world in which we live and if we go to Jesus with faith, and, instead of projecting our own prejudices on God’s word, receive his teaching, then his teaching will purify our minds. He will restore our contact with reality and keep us grounded in reality even in the midst of this insane world in which we live.