Br. Dave Kirkpatrick OSB
Scripture: John 1:1-18
The Greek poet Sappho who lived c. 630 – c. 570 BC said:
“Although only breath, words which I command are immortal.”
The Gospel says:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
So, are we to assume that John is saying that Jesus is the manifestation or incarnation of the word of God? This is important, God created everything with just a word. In Genesis chapter one, verse one through 3 reads:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
Did you know you can actually see the power of this? How many of you remember having televisions that used a “Picture Tube”? And have you ever observed what you would see if you turned it to a channel without any station broadcasting? You get the same if you take a AM radio and tune to a spot without a broadcasting signal
You get what everyone calls static.
But did you know that what you are seeing and hearing is the echo of the “Big Bang”. Which is what science calls the beginning of creation. You are seeing the Cosmic Microwave Background.
But science hasn’t any idea of how this happened. How there was nothing and then an explosion of all matter and time. And by nothing, that means nothing. If you imagine an infinite space totally black, no stars or galaxies. You are not even close. It is something beyond the human mind to grasp. I won’t say there wasn’t anything because there was God.
Forgive me if I get a little scientific. Before I joined the military after high school, One of the things I had aspired to become was an astronomer. I still enjoy looking at the stars with my eyes or binoculars or my telescope. Just to see everything that is out there. Stars, planets and on a good dark night, you can see the Galaxy of Andromeda.
The astronomer Carl Sagan said:
“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual.”
He also said:
“Religion should be more scientific. However science should be more religious.”
With just our eyes, we can see around 10,000 individual stars, yet this represents only a tiny fraction of the amount of stars within the Milky Way. Astronomers estimate that the Milky Way contains anywhere from 100 billion to 400 billion stars. That’s just our galaxy.
The observable universe contains as many as an estimated 2 trillion galaxies and, overall, as many as an estimated 1 Trillion Trillion stars. That is more stars than all the grains of beach sand on planet Earth.
That is just the observable universe, or the light we can see that has traveled to us from the beginning of time, approximately 26.7 billion years ago. It is possible that there is more out there we can’t see because light travels at about 186,000 miles a second.
That’s all fine and good. But what does it have to do with the scriptures?
We say that creation is God’s ‘Handy Work’. But that is incorrect. God didn’t fashion the universe with some primordial ‘stuff’ the same way that the scriptures say that God created Adam from the dust of the earth.
Everything was made at God’s command. He spoke and it happened. What about the ‘Big Bang’? Believe it or not, this doesn’t contradict our creation story. Science says that in a vacuum, subatomic particles jump into and out of existence. And one time, 26.7 billion years ago, one of these exploded or more accurately, expanded at a rate faster than light.
How did it ‘jump into existence’? Why did this one expand in the Big Bang? In other words, who put the bomb there and who lit the fuse?
Let me change gears, or at least a different way to look at things.
In the Rig Veda, a Hindu holy scripture, section 5.32, suggests that the three phonetic components of Om (a + u + m) correspond to the three stages of cosmic creation, and when it is read or said, it celebrates the creative powers of the universe. It is the Word of the power of creation.
Om serves as a sonic representation of the divine, for Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.
Once again, this concept does not contradict our understanding of the creative power of God. In fact, it actually is confirming the understanding of a universal truth.
If I may be forgiven for paraphrasing the gospel, not to make it inclusive but to more accurately express the true divine:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through the Word, and without the Word not one thing came into being. What has come into being in the Word was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
We know the writer of the Gospel of John, who may have been the only Disciple who could have written or at leas dictated it. Or followers of John may have written first hand the teachings of John. Was looking to express the shear power that he saw in Jesus.
We have just celebrated the birth of Jesus. True, it may not have been actually December 25th. But that’s not important. We celebrate an event, not a date.
Jesus was born in very humble surroundings, to a very humble and hard working family. Not quite the bottom rung of society but not in the lap of luxury.
A man of peace and gentle manner. Understanding, compassionate and loving. But like we humans he came to live among, was capable of intense righteous indignation (I love that term!). He showed the power of God by healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind and giving comfort to the lowly.
And I believe John saw in Jesus something none of the writers cared to include, or it has been edited out. I believe the Jesus would have had a great sense of humor.
A favorite mental picture I have of Jesus and his followers is a scene of an encampment by the road. The disciples and Jesus are sitting around a fire. They have just finished a meager meal and they are talking. I don’t believe that every word out of the mouth of Jesus was teaching his followers. I think there was gossip, stories, songs and even jokes. I can see perhaps John standing among them capering around the fire, illustrating some joke. Everyone is laughing hard, I see Jesus clutching his sides, head thrown back and laughing to tears.
John did indeed see the entire Jesus. But most importantly, he was there at the crucifixion. And was witness to the resurrected Lord.
John knew by then that God is not limited to the laws of his own creation, like we mortals are. Jesus proved that the restraints of death did not apply to himself. So his promise that we would be like him and live again was not an empty promise.
This was all the proof that Jesus was truly the only begotten, was and is the Word!