Archbishop Smith: The Vaccine

22 October 2018

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

It’s flu season again. That means that, once again, a vaccine has been produced to prevent the spread of the virus. On television ads, I’ve noticed a great push to promote the vaccine and to encourage people to get it. I’ve also seen on the news reports that not everyone is taking up the invitation.

This puts me in mind of other viruses that concern me far more than the flu, as serious as that is. These do not circulate in the air. They are not passed on through human physical contact. Rather, they reach us via the many means of social communication. There is, indeed, a vaccine that prevents the contagion, but here, too, the uptake is very low.

The viruses of which I speak attack not the body but the mind and soul. They are the ideas that seduce us away from fidelity to God and harm the dignity of the human person: God and religion have no place in personal or public deliberation; reality is not a prior given to which we conform but the malleable product of the human mind; the mystery and dignity of the human person is reducible to sexual inclination; truth is no more than opinion; conscience equates to subjectivity; and so on. The symptomatic expression of these viruses, once they take hold, is the widespread anxiety gripping and paralyzing the lives of people today of every age and circumstance.

How does one inoculate oneself against their spread? The vaccine is the Word of God. It brings us to an encounter with Jesus Christ, in Whom the full truth about both God and the human person is perfectly manifest. By immersing ourselves in the Word, we submerge ourselves in that which alone provides a sure and clear compass for our lives. In it we discover truth, meaning and hope.

Unlike the flu vaccine, which is administered on an annual basis, “vaccination” by reading the Word of God needs to happen daily. The dosage need not be large – even a few pages of the Gospel will suffice. Yet a daily turn to Sacred Scripture is urgently necessary, since it is every day that we are bombarded with a variety of messaging in the multiple media platforms by which the harmful ideas are carried.

Moreover, the Word of God serves not only as a “vaccine” but also as an antidote if we do allow the viruses to take hold in our minds. God’s Word of truth heals and liberates; it will always win out over evil. Yet, this begs the question: why the low uptake? Why do so few centre their lives not on God’s Word but on purely human considerations or ideologies?

I expect the answer lies in our instinctive resistance to change. When the viruses of our day communicate the falsehoods of radical autonomy, self-creation and self-determination, the summons in Sacred Scripture to accept the fact of our creatureliness and dependence upon God, the call to repentance and surrender, can seem extraordinarily difficult to understand let alone accept.

I may not like the idea of getting a needle, but if I want to be well I will do what is needed. In a similar vein (pardon the pun), vaccination by immersion in God’s Word may not at first seem pleasant, yet it is necessary for both prevention and cure in these days of worrisome viral infections of the mind and soul.