THE FOUNDATIONAL QUESTION OF ORIGIN
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GEN 1:1-19; PS 104:1-2,5-6,10,12,24,35; MARK 6:53-56 ]
There is so much division in the world today, with everyone having different views of the world, the identity of the human person, the question of sexuality and marriage, the purpose of life and the future of the universe and humanity. What is the root of all our disagreements? Namely, because we cannot agree on the most fundamental of all questions about life: our origin. So long as we cannot agree on our origin, we cannot agree on our destiny and therefore the purpose of life on earth. If we have no ultimate goal in life beyond this earth, then this life has no meaning because it is lived without any finality. However, to know our destiny, we must know where and whom we came from.
The biblical answer to the question of origin is the doctrine of creation. It is the Christian belief that God created this world out of His goodness and bounty. The world came into being in time, unlike God who is eternal. God created the world and the universe through His Word. St John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” (Jn 1:1-3) The world did not exist by chance but through God who in His divine plan created the world so that we could share in His goodness and life. Clearly, in the doctrine of creation, the bible states emphatically, that God is our creator, distinct from us who are His creatures. We are called to share in the life of God but we are not God. We have a beginning, unlike God who has no beginning.
However, today, science questions the doctrine of creation. Science refutes that God created us, and has reduced the story of creation to a myth. Instead, science proposes in place of the creation story, the Big Bang theory to explain how the universe began. According to this so called scientific explanation, the universe began with a small atom, which then grew over 14 billion years to the cosmos that we are now in. However, there is no way to measure this fact except through hypothesis based on mathematical formulas and models. But there are other explanations other than the Big Bang theory, such as the eternal inflation or an oscillating universe.
In the final analysis, whether it is the Big Bang theory or the doctrine of creation, both require faith, because no one was at the birth of the universe. The question we are confronted with is whether we want to believe in the Big Bang hypothesis, which speaks of an atom which, through cosmic microwave, grew into a universe by itself, or to believe in a Universal Mind whom we call God who created and directed creation. Even if one were to believe that the world began with an atom, we need to ask where the atom came from. The answer is that it just was. However, this is ironically the same explanation offered to those who ask us the question, “where did God come from?” We say, God simply is. He has no beginning. He is the “I am.” When we think of the universe with so many galaxies, more than 200 billion galaxies and still counting, we cannot but conclude that there must be an Ultimate Mind or Being. It is immaterial whether we call this Ultimate Ground of life “God” or by any other name. The truth is that if the universe and the galaxies could be arranged in such a manner, then there must be someone who ordered the universe as such.
Consequently, for Christians, the answer to the question of origin is not an impersonal force that exists and forms the world without any sense of direction or destiny. The world could not have come into being just like that and could still function in an orderly manner without someone guiding the universe. Only a creator God, a personal God who shares with us His mind and heart could create such a universe with all its galaxies, and direct them in a way that fulfils His divine plan for creation, humanity and the universe.
In truth with regard to the origin of the Universe, the answer is clear as far as believers in God is concerned; not just for Christians but Jews and Muslims alike, and those other religions that are monotheistic or even polytheistic. The universe could not have come into being by itself. It must have a cause and a beginning. Underlying this cause, even if one could subscribe it to the Big Bang Theory, it presupposes a Mind that orders the universe in that manner. What does not have a beginning is whom we call God.
It is important to clarify from the outset, that the bible only answers the question of origin of the universe. It does not specify the process of the creation of the universe. In other words, whilst Catholics do not believe that the world came to its being by itself, we can hold on to the Big Bang Theory or even the evolution theory so long as we do not refute that behind the process of creation is God who is the Ultimate Mind that created the universe. Pope Pius XII clarified that “the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter – for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.” (Human Generis, 36)
In other words, how the process took place with regard to the creation of man and the universe is the work of science to explain, so long as it does not contradict the doctrines of the Church. “This must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faith.” (Ibid)
For a Christian, it is not even enough to subscribe to the fact of a Great Mind that created the world. This mind is a personal God, one who has intellect and will, and from whom we derive our intellect and will. It is a reasonable claim for us that we are created in the image and likeness of God because we know that human beings are the summit of creation. The psalmist declares, “When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast established; what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him? Yet thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor. Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.” (Ps 8:3-6)
Only because our Creator is a personal God, can we speak of our destiny as an invitation to share in His life and love. We all know that for a human being to live, he needs love and knowledge. He is more than an animal that could be satisfied with just physical and material things. He desires to grow in understanding and in love. As such, only in God, can his thirst for love and knowledge be fulfilled. As St Augustine says, “My soul is restless until it rests in God.” Only in the knowledge of God as our Father and embraced by His love, can we find true security and fulfillment, joy and happiness.
Realizing this destiny of ours, our purpose of life on this earth is to shape ourselves to become what we are called to be. Our life on earth therefore is a pilgrimage and a journey of growing to become more like God in love, in understanding, so that we share in His life here and now as a foretaste. St John wrote, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 Jn 3:1-3) Drawing from this text, it is because of sin that man has become ignorant, and forgot his origin and who God is. Without knowledge of God, he does not know himself or his purpose and destiny in life.
In the gospel, we have Jesus who came to restore us to wholeness because of sin. He came to heal us and to show us the mercy and love of God. Jesus was the compassion of God in person. We read “no sooner had they stepped out of the boat than people recognised him, and started hurrying all through the countryside and brought the sick on stretchers to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, to village, or town, or farm, they laid down the sick in the open spaces, begging to let them touch even the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched him were cured.” Through His love for us, we too might come to know the Father’s love and mercy, and our dignity as His sons and daughters. In this way, through Christ, we regain our adopted sonship and daughtership. Filled with His Holy Spirit, we share once again the fullness of life and love in God by loving God and others as He did through a life of self-emptying in humble service.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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