The question of being, the wondering about our origins and the basis for our existence, is the question that nags at the human heart. Bishop Robert Barron addresses this today in reflecting on Matthew 6:19-23, today’s Gospel reading:
Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples not to store up treasures for themselves on earth, but to store up treasures in heaven, “where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.”
St. Augustine once said that since every creature is made ex nihilo, it carries with it the heritage of non-being. There is a kind of penumbra or shadow of nothingness that haunts every finite thing.
This is a rather high philosophical way of stating what all of us know in our bones: no matter how good, beautiful, true, or exciting a thing or state of affairs is here below, it is destined to pass into non-being. Think of a gorgeous firework that bursts open like a giant flower and then, in the twinkling of an eye, is gone forever. Everything is haunted by non-being; everything, finally, is that firework.
But this is not meant to depress us; it is meant to redirect our attention precisely to the treasures of heaven, to the eternity of God. Once we see everything in light of God, we can learn to love the things of this world without clinging to them and without expecting too much of them. Think of how much disappointment and heartache could be avoided if we only learned this truth!
That beautiful, powerful, moving moments of joy, fellowship, singing, philosophizing, and baseball games even exist in passing is just incredible.
We say that anything above or below the “natural” doesn’t exist; that even the possibility of the supernatural or metaphysical is a sort of superstitution—maybe useful for abstract thought experiments, but not for pointing to anything of ultimate concern. And at the same time, we do everything we can to pursue happiness. So why should happiness exist at all? Why should we exist? Why should the universe be intelligible in the way that it is? Doesn’t the intelligibility of the universe suggest an antecedent intelligence?
Why is there something rather than nothing? Why should being, be?
It’s good and fortifying to wonder about these things.