The Grandeur of God

(Homily for Second Sunday of Easter)

This past Lent I had a somewhat unusual book for �spiritual reading.� Titled Privileged Planet it was a book about cosmology by Drs. Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards. Previously I had read Rare Earth which had a similar jarring thesis: Earth might be the only planet in the galaxy (or even the universe) capable of supporting more than simple life forms. Although most of us grew up with the idea that there are probably a great number of habitable planets, it turns out the conditions for habitability are more complex than previously imagined.* Privileged Planet takes the thesis a step further: �those same rare conditions that produce a habitable planet - that allow for the existence of complex observers like ourselves - also provide the best overall place for observing.� Our Earthly home is both �designed for life and designed for discovery.�

I will leave it to scientists to debate this thesis. What the book caused me to do was to wonder at the marvel of the universe in which we find ourselves: physical forces like gravity and electromagnetism set in place in the first fractions of a second; the formation of stars which in turn produced metals; the protective role of gas giants like Jupiter; ice filled moons; comets and asteroids; our own satellite which exactly covers the sun during an eclipse; tectonic plates which cause earthquakes and make life possible � and array of other discoveries. These facts, which science has discovered, make me wonder about the Fact which under girds them. If they are each so marvelous, what must He be?

Our Psalm today says, �Give thanks to the Lord for he is good.� Like Thomas we stretch out a hand toward Being itself. The great Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, �The world is charged with the grandeur of God.� I would like to conclude by reading that beautiful poem:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod. 
And, for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs --
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


*Back in the 1960�s Carl Sagan estimated �there might be one million civilizations in the Milky Way.� The celebrated astronomer based this prediction on the "mediocrity principle" which considered that Earth is an unexceptional planet circling an unexceptional star. Gonzalez and Richards (as well as Ward and Brownlee in Rare Earth) marshal evidence for our uniqueness. Not that we are at the "center" of the universe, but rather at the best location for complex life to flourish and to observe what is beyond us.

Spanish Version

From Archives:

2014 Homily: Journey to Hope Week 2
2013: Overcoming Fear - A Titanic Hero
2012: Divine Mercy in a Time of Crisis
2011: His Mercy Endures
2010: Believing Is Seeing
2009: The Eighth Day
2008: Reconciliation
2007: A Drop in the Ocean
2006: Mercy in Action
2005: The Grandeur of God
2004: God Loves Honest Skeptics
2003: The Truth Is Out There
2002: Divine Mercy
2001: Doubting The Doubts
2000: A Requisite for Faith
1999: Neither Gullible nor Rigid
1998: Be Not Afraid!
1997: Room for Doubt

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