Even before Darwin, scientists were studying the origin of species; and though some might think there is a perpetual and permanent war between science and religion, it is simply not the case. St. John Paul II asked in a letter to George V. Coyne, S.J., director of the Vatican Observatory, “If the cosmologies of the ancient Near Eastern world could be purified and assimilated into the first chapters of Genesis, might not contemporary cosmology have something to offer to our reflections upon creation?” While some Christians maintain that the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis describe the literal process of creation, most Catholics understand that there is nothing at odds between proclaiming God’s sovereignty over creation and studying the means by which creation took place, including the evolution of species.
Yet there is one thing Catholic thought insists on: God is the beginning of all things, the one from whom and through whom all existence emerges. In Job’s encounter with God in todays’ reading, God challenges Job. He asks: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone.... Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?” The Book of Job describes God’s creative activity using the language of human building and tools. It is not the scientific reality of these cosmic images that Christians maintain but the insight that we are finite creatures and God is the infinite being, the master builder, who created all out of nothing.
Human beings function as co-creators with God, attempting to understand nature, work with nature and harness nature. Yet even as human knowledge and technology increase, the tools of human ingenuity are often overwhelmed by the depth of creation, as was Job, not just by how it surprises us with its majesty but because of the limits of our understanding.
For creation is an ongoing work sustained by God. God the creator is not a reminiscence of past events but an affirmation of God as the sustainer of all creation, the one who cares for creation and the one who continues to do new things, even now. God’s work in creation is often pronounced in the beauty and power of nature, the vistas of ocean waves, rolling prairies or soaring mountains. This is the natural world and God is revealed here.
But God’s supernatural presence also reveals the God beyond comprehension. The apostles experienced one aspect of God’s presence when Jesus, in the midst of a storm, woke to his disciples’ anguished cries, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus then “woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.” The apostles were shocked—an appropriate response, for the might of God rests beyond all human calculation.
And while we might not experience God’s supernatural power in a public display that awes us, we might see it worked out at a personal level. Those who have never experienced a natural miracle might experience God working in individual lives, creating something new in people who were lost, forgotten, who were thought beyond redemption. This is why no person is a “loser,” no person worthy of being “written off.” Cannot the God who creates and sustains all creation, who acts in nature, act in the most precious of creations, human beings? Whenever we cast humanity as masters of the universe, we have lost our way; but whenever we think we are nothing to God, we have misunderstood God’s creative power.
God is smaller than that: God dwells in people, working graces unseen. He came to earth out of love and “the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all.” Each of us is a miracle not only in the womb but at every stage of our lives. This is why Paul says, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” We are new creations, for God is working in each of our lives even now. The creator beyond all human imagining loved us into being and makes each of us new.