Friday, June 19, 2015
TELESCOPES, INFINITY AND LOVE
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
-- Sermon on Mount Mt 5:43-48
(The New Jerusalem Bible captures the meaning of that last verse (v.48) by translating it: “You should set no limits on your love, just as your heavenly father sets no limits on his love”)
THE CHALLENGE OF GOD’S GRANDEUR
This week I viewed on Youtube a couple of videos having to do with the recentdiscoveries of “radio astronomy.” Since radio waves can travel much, much farther than visible light waves, we have built huge arrays of radio receptors that catch these radio waves from outer space and send them to a centralized computer that coordinates the data and converts it into “pictures” of galaxies and dust clouds that are far beyond the reach of optical telescopes.
These beautiful awe-inspiring images give us, astronomers tell us, glimpses of incredibly vast explosions and implosions and star-forming that occurred back near the beginning of creation itself. Gazing at these images made me reflect on on God’s infinite grandeur, of course, but I also began connecting this grandeur with Christ’s invitation to us in his Sermon on the Mount that we’ve been reading at mass this week.
FORGET THE “TO-DO” LIST!
In the text at the beginning of this post Jesus is challenging his disciples us to go beyond the carefully measured love of the Pharisaic law (which placed carefully defined limits on who you did or didn’t have to love), and instead to risk going beyond the safe circle of the known, the given, the familiar and the predictable in favor of a law that imitates the boundless love of the God in whose image we are made. (The same God who strewed those magnificent clouds of dust through the measureless expanses of space-time.)
Jesus tells his hearers that the New Law, Christianity, cannot be a list of tasks. It is,
as He teaches by word and example, the unveiling of the limitless horizons of human greatness, horizons as vast as those being probed by the great radio telescope arrays.
The grandeur to which we are called, though, is lived out in the humblest of our everyday lives. The limitless horizons of the heart are experienced within the familiar horizons of home, neighborhood, workplace and so on. Jesus tells us everything we humans are capable of even in the simplest life by means of meekness, poverty of spirit, mercy justice and so on These will make us true children of a God who is our Father and whose love created the boundless beautiful universe.
WHOEVER SOWS SPARINGLY...
One morning this week I reflected on another reading from mass, 2 Cor 9:6, in which Paul says much the same thing as Jesus: “Whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully,”
I was touched by this phrase, and was challenged by it to think of my human capability of loving not as something bounded and closed up within a tight, safe circle. That’s the opposite kind of love, which Paul describes as “stingy.” Yeah, stingy love is safe, predictable, comfortable and leaves us pretty much invulnerable. This, the kind of love the Pharisees practiced, is not the love to which Jesus call us in his Sermon on the Mount. It doesn’t reflect the infinite openness of our creator who made us out of the stuff of the stars that came from the Big Bang.
God created us in the divine image, and God is love. But the divine love for which we are created can hardly be small, stingy, closed and safe. Our love needs to be like God’s: so great that it can’t be measured even by the largest radio telescope array.