Sunday, August 05, 2012

Deciphering Creation

In a 2007 General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI meditates with John Chrysostom on the Book of Genesis. Of creation, he writes:
..."Es ist ein großes Gut" sagt Chrysostomus, "zu erkennen was das Geschöpf ist under was der Schopfer."...Und so wird Gott zum Gott der Herablassung, der dem gefallenen und fremden Menschen einen Brief schickt, die Heilige Schrift, so dass Schöpfung und Schrift sich ergänzend vervollständigen. Im Lichte der Schrift, des Briefes, den Gott uns gegeben hat, können wir die Schöpfung entschlusseln. 
Or, now that I've shown off that I can read some German,
"It is a great Good," says Chrysostum, "to recognize what is the creature and what is the Creator."  Thus God is the God of Indulgence, who sends to the estranged a letter  - the Holy Scriptures - so that Creation and Scripture may complete one another. In the light of the Scriptures, the letter God has given to us, can we decipher creation. 
If you read today's Gospel, you might be surprised with what we might see as the ongoing process of deciphering the identity of Jesus. Jesus did not hand out business cards stamped with "Jesus, Son of God." He fed those who came to him. He spoke words to them that pierced deep within, penetrating the soil of the heart, tapping into new wellsprings. A patient teacher, he moved those who came to him from what was known - bread that satisfies temporary hunger - to something they could not yet imagine: the Bread of Life.

A proper Catholic imagination understands that Faith and Reason, Religion and Science, are not opposed to one another. Instead, they are complementary. Frequently, people think that faith "adds" another layer to the story of creation, as though to be a believer one must add something. Perhaps it is more helpful to think of it not as an adding but, rather, as a deepening. The believer looks at the world and instead of seing merely brute facts, sees signs and clues calling out to be deciphered; they see a world which "Gottes Spur in tragen" or "bears the traces of God." Like any proper sleuth, the believer is aware that we're wrapped up in a Mystery which continues to unfold around us. Knowing that we're caught up in a Mystery doesn't add some sense of superiority to the humbles the mind to know that we're caught up in a story we are not entirely in control of.

Toucan Sam used to tell kids to "Follow Your Nose" to the Fruit Loops. Today, Jesus is telling us to follow our hunger, to believe that the hunger gnawing within us can find satisfaction. We need only have eyes to see that the one who can feed us has set the table before us and invites us to feast with Him. Auntie Mame may have said it best, "Live! Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!" The Christian believer might echo this, too, saying "Feast! We have set before us the Bread of Life and most poor suckers (other Christians included) can't decipher the invitation to join."

If today we have today the courage to decipher the clues around us and find our way to the source of Infinite Life, let us have also the courage to invite those we see to feast with us. What good is a dinner reservation for one when we can invite the whole world to feast with us? 


Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I think people have trouble getting to the banquet because they are being led astray by the tastiness of junk food.

Ryan G. Duns, SJ said...

Elizabeth, I could not agree more. I suspect we could look to Jamie Oliver's initiative to get people to eat healthy as an example of effective (food) evangelization. Robust faith, just as healthy eating, need not be the exclusive domain of the well-to-do. It is available to all...we just need to figure out how to package it.