Celebrating those in Science Homily
Nov 19, 2018
Contrary to myths spread in the media, Catholics do not in any way think that the rigorous pursuit of the natural sciences compromises their faith. Scientists who are believers are convinced that there is one truth which governs the world and guides the lives of all men and women.
The very starting point of Biblical revelation is the affirmation that God created human beings, endowed them with reason, and set them over all the creatures of the earth. In this way, the human person has become the steward of creation and God’s “helper.” There is no conflict between God’s providence and scientific achievements.
Faith, for its part, is able to integrate and assimilate scientific research, for all such research, aimed at a deeper understanding of created reality gives us the possibility of discovering the Creator, source and goal of all things…to become more like the God in whose image we are created…and to be like God is to promote life and goodness and assume a greater care for all creation.
The Church, therefore, has the greatest esteem for scientific research, since it “‘is a significant expression of man’s dominion over creation,’ according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and a service to truth, goodness, and beauty. From Copernicus to Mendel, from Albert the Great to Pascal, from Galileo to Marconi, the history of the Church and the history of the sciences clearly show us that there is a scientific culture rooted in Christianity”
It is adopting the Spirit of Christ who says, I have come not to be served but to serve…and so scientists especially place their God given talents at the service of improving the conditions of people and humanity. To do as Saint Paul advises put on the mind of Christ who says I am the way, the truth and the life.
Science therefore is meant to enhance the quality of life not destroy it in any of its stages or forms…like a doctor who promotes health rather than worsening sickness.
This weekend’s readings focus on the Second Coming of Christ…that moment when human history will inevitably end…this is not just a faith fact but a scientific fact as well…and so what might science and faith together instruct us regarding the imminent end of all things?
Science tells us that the Universe is expanding, that the Sun will eventually burn out, and that our world will inevitably end – billions of years from now – in a cold nothingness.
At the “beginning” when all matter was concentrated into a point, that point was the entire universe and nothing existed, not even nothingness, except for it. God created out of nothing but nothing is something so God had to create the nothing in order to put the something…the universe in it…mind blowing to be sure.
Stars are powered by nuclear reactions.
Judging from what we know about how fusion reactions take place it’s pretty straightforward to predict the different stages that a star goes through from the time it first forms to when it settles down to a steady shine, to when it goes through its last gasps as the fuel in its core runs out.
It’s pretty well established, then, that in about five billion more years our Sun’s core will have gone through its supply of nuclear fuel. When the core can no longer produce energy, it will cool off and contract; then the mass of gases above the core will come crashing down onto it, bounce, and puff themselves out into a cool, dull-red cloud that will almost certainly envelop the Earth itself. That will certainly end all life, on Earth at least.
But will that be the absolute end of all things and all people as though evaporating into a puff a smoke it will be as though nothing and no one ever existed since consciousness and awareness will no longer be…not the least of which is my own.
And so as in all things…when the student is perplexed, seek guidance from the teacher…in our case we have the absolute best…Jesus Christ, who was referred to as a teacher more than any other title given to Him.
Jesus himself, before his death and resurrection, put it simply and directly as we hear in today’s Gospel:
"Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates.
Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
God’s Word is an enduring word…the very nature of that word is forever thus all things drawn forth from that forever participate in that eternity for best or absolute worst as we hear in today’s first reading:
"Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.
"But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever."
And this is because that Word is a life…a person…who has existed eternally…whose very essence is pure and infinite love…as we hear from this opening chapter from the Gospel of John read during Christmas Eve Night…that night when God became Incarnate…assuming a physical body to enjoy with a now human mind and human senses the physical universe He created…
In the beginning* was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.a
2He was in the beginning with God.
3* All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.b
What came to be 4through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;c
and the darkness has not overcome it.
What Science does is illuminate…the word science means knowledge…we have been given the gift of reason or intelligence…to know…. To be created in the likeness of God means like God we are rational beings…there we are meant to observe, explore, study, reflect, know and apply…as love feeds the heart, beauty the soul, food the body…knowledge nourishes the mind…but just as we want what will make us healthy, strong and happy…there is no greater knowledge to accumulate than to know Christ.
God’s creation then is a wonderful classroom of fantastic learning…as Saint Paul reminds us:
Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.
And regarding man’s highest learning on the night of the Last Supper Jesus says: Now this is eternal life…that they know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Heaven and Earth will pass away…be no more…Christ passed away…was He no more…no, He is risen from the Dead…therefore, all things participate in His resurrection…this renewal of all things…when I am lifted up or raised up says Jesus, I will draw all things to Myself…from the Cross and from the Tomb…emerging from the darkness into the light of a new day…
It’s what Scientists do…lead us from the darkness that is occasioned by doubt into the light…providing us with essential knowledge for the improvement of the world and/or preparation for the world to come.
Science can answer what not why…the why is provided for us by Faith…For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…but to love the world and give to us so great and perfect a gift of life and love…He had to create it…we are the why…and why He has prepared an eternally and infinitely glorious destiny for us, as we hear from the concluding chapters of Scripture:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.* 2I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem,* coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.b 3
I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.c He will dwell with them and they will be his people* and God himself will always be with them [as their God].* 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.”d
5The one who sat on the throne* said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
This the great and definitive second coming of Christ and what He will restore once that occurs…but we all must pass through judgment…
As one Saint remarked in combined science/faith-like fashion: You must know that the day of judgment, like a flaming furnace, is already approaching. Sun, moon and stars will be consumed, and the whole earth will become like lead melting in the fire. All that each man has done, whether openly or in secret, will then be brought to light. Therefore, a very good way of atoning for our sins is by being generous to the poor. Fasting is better than prayer, but almsgiving surpasses both, for love covers a multitude of sins.
The truth is, the Second Coming will definitely occur in our life-time…at our death…but just as importantly prior to it…when in only a short span of time…Christ will come again…fully present to us…gifted to us in the Holy Eucharist…the pledge of our future and everlasting glory…