Are You Afraid of Dangerous Current Events? Learn from a Charcoal Burner

Cancer, violence, a financial virus, an Internet blackout, the failure of systems, hunger and nuclear war have power only against our bodies, but they cannot strike our soul if it is truly united to God.

Newsdesk (06/11/2022 13:27, Gaudium Press) Have you ever stopped to think about what is the greatest danger we run in life? The answers can vary to infinity. Some believe that the greatest risk we run is to contract an incurable disease. Others attribute the worst thing that can happen to us to violence, saying that when we leave home we don’t know if we will return because the risks include robbery, traffic accidents and stray bullets.

If the person who answers is connected to the area of finance or has a reasonable understanding of economics, he can say that the great danger is a virus in the financial system, a flaw in the codes of banking programs that could cause money to suddenly evaporate, to ‘disappear’ with no one able to access it anymore. We cannot say that this is probable, but we cannot deny that it is possible and that it would truly create chaos; after all, little is based any more on real currency, on physical money. The valuables we possess in our days have nothing in common with the treasures chased by pirates: chests full of jewels and gold coins. Our possessions, today, are digital, our wealth is virtual and could,  yes, disappear in a moment.

And since we are talking about the virtual world, the question about risk could be answered by those more inclined toward technology and robotics, who would situate the greatest danger that threatens us as being the possibility of a general blackout of the Internet. It is something that is scary to imagine, because if such a thing happens, for some reason, the world stops, because practically everything depends on the internet, is stored in ‘the cloud’ or is contained in systems. But, just like the financial virus, an internet blackout is not the biggest risk we run.

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Others might say that the supply crisis is the biggest threat, potentially causing widespread hunger – which has led a good number of people to stockpile food. Well, it is true that famine is a risk, and it is already a real fact in some parts of the planet, but lack of food on a global scale is far from being the biggest risk we run.

“Ah, but war is! We’ve solved the conundrum!” It is true that tension has been escalating about the danger of a nuclear war, a hypothesis that has been hanging over us ever more closely and, regrettably, could come to pass. However, even a nuclear war and the explosion of the most powerful atomic bombs, with the potential to destroy much of the planet, is not our greatest risk. It is a great risk, a real danger, but it is not the main one.

The forbidden fruit

The greatest danger we run in life is, in fact, to be overcome by pride. Wisdom is an excellent thing and it is good that people study, that they acquire more and more knowledge, that they master theories, that they follow the advances in science.  After all, God did not create man for ignorance, and knowledge is a divine gift to us. The problem is when knowledge demands precedence in all the areas of our life and supplants what is essential.

We are often mistaken in thinking that there is good knowledge and bad knowledge. Bad knowledge would be knowledge focussed only on material things, disassociated from spirituality. In fact, this knowledge is not only bad — it is terrible. However, it is an illusion to believe that knowledge focused on the metaphysical –Philosophy, Theology and Religion — is always good knowledge. There are people who are so knowledgeable about God, who seem to know so much about God, that they end up being put on pedestals and treated as untouchable. But if we analyze deeply, many of these people have immense knowledge while remaining devoid of the only thing that really matters to God: faith. The genuine, simple, modest faith, the faith of the little ones, the pure faith like that of a little child.

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Being saturated with knowledge can be one of the most effective ways of turning away from God if we lack the humility to acknowledge the nothingness that we are. To make sure that this is true, we need only consider that a large proportion of those who declare themselves atheists are people who know a great deal about Sacred History and religion. One speaker, probably the most famous atheist in our country [Brazil], does not hide from anyone his religious background and the many years he breathed the atmosphere of God, until the moment he doubted that God heard his prayers and went out in search of knowledge.

There comes a point when people study so much, know so much, that they begin to question the systems, the methods, the knowledge of all other men; a very short step from beginning to question the religious system and, obviously, to question God. It is the apotheotic moment when they taste the forbidden fruit (Gen 3) and become convinced that they know as much as God does. And if they know as much as God, they conclude that they do not need God. The next step is to think that they know more than God and then it becomes impossible to respect a Being that they begin to consider as inferior to them. Succumbing to pride, the atheist is born.

Faith of the Charcoal Burner

There is an old story, very touching, that gave origin to the expression “faith of the charcoal burner” (from the French “foi du charbonnier”). The story tells that there was a very simple and very upright man, a poor charcoal burner, who one day was visited by the devil in human form. Desiring to tempt that poor soul, the devil asked him what he believed in. The charcoal burner simply replied: “I believe in the Holy Church”“. The devil struck again, asking him what the Holy Church believed in, and the man replied, “The same as me!”

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The conversation continued for some time, with unpretentious answers that revealed nothing about the modest man’s beliefs. Tired of “trying to burn wet wood”, the devil gave up and, by all means, went in search of a more conceited person to tempt.

What does this show us? That the most genuine faith is simple faith. ‘I believe because I believe. The Church said it is so.  Jesus created the Church, so I believe what the Church says.’ No erudition, no questioning, just belief for belief’s sake.

After all, there isn’t much logic in God becoming man, dying on a cross, being buried, resurrecting, spending 40 days in the company of his disciples, ascending to Heaven before a large number of witnesses, promising that he would return and being awaited for over 2000 years. Yet that’s the way it is. It has divided history, changed the world, transformed civilization and endures all the onslaughts of the devil because “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1).

To be free from this immense danger that threatens our life, we must ask God to free us from pride, arrogance and haughtiness and to make the faith of the charcoal burner sprout in us, however learned we may be, because cancer, violence, a financial virus, an Internet blackout, the failure of systems, hunger and nuclear war have power only against our bodies, but they cannot strike our soul if it is truly united to God. As Jesus Christ taught, “we must not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, we must fear him who is able to cast both soul and body into hell” (cf. Mt 10:28).

By Afonso Pessoa

Compiled by Roberta MacEwan

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