A lack of belief in knowledge

By | April 18, 2012

How do we know? What is the source of our knowledge? How can we be certain about anything? Is truth possible? Can we know anything with any degree of certitude or are we condemned to the land of ignorance?

In our readings today there is a good quantity of ignorance. Peter says to the people that in handing Jesus over to Pilate and having the Lord crucified that “you acted out of ignorance.” Then Peter turns right around and says that God raised Jesus from the dead and he is a witness to this. It is faith that led Peter to the truth, for at one point he too was ignorant as to the true nature of Jesus.

Then in the Gospel we come up with the question of knowing. In appearing to the disciples Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” Prior to this they did not comprehend that Jesus had to suffer and die and rise from the dead. The disciples were in darkness and thus they were startled and terrified when Christ appeared to them. Their knowledge came by way of grace, not intense and prolonged study. Jesus opened their minds and their hearts and by so doing gave them a whole new life.

In John’s letter (second reading), knowledge is obtained by action. John says that certitude comes from obedience: “The way we may be sure we know him is to keep his commandments.” That is, by living the life of Jesus we participate in his life and are given the truth. And the reverse is true. To claim knowledge of Christ and to disobey the commandments is simply a lie. It doesn’t work.

We have a major problem today and that is a lack of belief in knowledge. C.S. Lewis writes in “That Hideous Strength,” his science fiction work: “It is incredible how little this knowledge moved him. It could not, because he has long ceased to believe in knowledge itself.”

Why is it that knowledge of God’s love fails to transform our lives? Why is it that knowing Jesus died and rose for us doesn’t transform the world and those who witness the gifts of the Holy Spirit cannot penetrate our secular culture?

Is it because we no longer believe in knowledge? Or is it that once we know, then we must repent and change our lives? In bidding the disciples farewell, Jesus instructed them to go forth and preach repentance for the forgiveness of sin. Rather than some hang-up about the possibility of knowing, the real issue may be moral change. Or a combination of the two.

Our prayer: “Lord, let your face shine on us.” When answered, we will know without doubt.

Questions for reflection

1. Who has opened your mind to the Scriptures?

2. What effect does knowledge have in your life?

3. Is belief in knowledge an issue for you?

Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.

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