That means, capable for God. It’s an expression from St. Augustine that asserts that man, in spite of his limitations, both natural and infranatural, i.e., those that are consequences of sin, is capable of knowing God, of launching into the infinite, of longing for the absolute.
We have been designed and wired for it. Even if we don’t consider yet the truths of faith about ourselves, somehow we can already know we are meant to know God. That’s because there’s something spiritual in us. We are not purely material beings, stuck to the material world only.
Our spirituality can be discerned by the fact that we are capable of thinking and loving, operations that are not material but are spiritual. Here we use concepts and reasons that are spiritual, not material.
Since we are capable of spiritual operations, there must be something spiritual in us, following the principle that “operare sequitur esse,” the operation follows or is determined by one’s being or essence. This is how we can rightly conclude we have a spiritual soul.
It’s our spirituality that enables us to know, to will and to love, and its field of coverage is actually infinite. It’s our spirituality that enables us to transcend the material dimension of our life, the here and now, the cultural and other human conditionings, in order to enter into the world of the spiritual and supernatural even if we cannot fully fathom and capture it.
In his encyclical, “Veritatis splendor” (The splendour of truth), Pope John Paul II rightly said that “in the depths of man’s heart there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to attain full knowledge of it. This is eloquently proved by man’s tireless search for knowledge in all fields.
“It is proved even more by his search for the meaning of life. The development of science and technology, this splendid testimony of the human capacity for understanding and for perseverance, does not free humanity from the obligation to ask the ultimate religious questions…”
We have that yearning and are enabled to pursue it. This basic truth about ourselves is very important especially considering the current world trend that is drifting if not wallowing in what is called by people like Pope Benedict XVI as relativism.
This is the mentality, if not the ethos, that maintains that there are no absolute truths, and that things simply depend on how one is, his culture, and other conditionings. Everything is relative to something. In the end, it denies there is a God, or an objective universal moral law, or any intrinsic evil, or sin.
It’s absolutizing the belief that what is true to you may not be true to me. In short, it absolutizes the relative, an inherent contradiction and anomaly in its system. It holds that man cannot transcend his material dimension and the other conditionings that come into play.
Pope Benedict XVI, just before becoming Pope, made a strong denunciation of this phenomenon that is gripping the majority of the people these days. He continues to denounce it, stressing its unspeakable dangers if it is allowed to develop to its last consequences.
There would be total confusion and chaos, as each one, each group, etc., will hold on to their respective beliefs, without ever hoping that there is a universal bond that can hold us together, despite our personal, cultural, social differences.
While it’s true that we are subject to some conditionings, it’s not true that we cannot go beyond them. While our knowledge of the absolute truth may not be full, perfect and changeless, it is not true that we cannot know the absolute truth or that there is no absolute truth.
Relativism has its roots in isms like atheism or non-belief in God, agnosticism or the belief that God cannot be known no matter how one tries. It springs from a lifestyle where the spiritual dimension of man is practically dead while his material aspect is given full rein.
This is actually the real problem we have, for which a lot has to be planned out and done to solve it. It’s a big challenge, because it involves convincing people about the reality of the spiritual and supernatural world.
At the moment, there is well-entrenched belief that any reference to things like faith, the spiritual, the supernatural, the Church, is some indication one is out of touch, is not living in this planet, is unfeeling about the plight of the people.
It’s indeed a big challenge to dismantle this belief, and to affirm that we truly are “capax Dei.”
By: Fr. Roy Cimagala
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