Sunday, June 12, 2011

Talking About God

"Talking About God," a column in the Peace Weekly by one of our Korean bishops, begins with  a reflection on the creation of the world and its completion--this, he says, is the foundational declaration of a Christian. For a Catholic, God also makes known to us who we truly are and the reason for our happiness.The bishop, in his first article of the series, presents a number of thoughts that are worth pondering.

In today's world,  he says, it is becoming difficult to speak about God. In past ages God was center stage but with the entrance of science and technology, God was pushed off stage. Science, it is now believed, will bring us happiness.

With genetic engineering, the dream of a disease-free life ushers in the new God of science. A good example of the science/religious conflict can be seen, the bishops says, by noting the different responses of the first Russian cosmonaut who returned back to earth with the news that there was no God to be seen, and the American who returned from the moon and mentioned how  beautiful space was--and that he couldn't help but praise God for the beauty he saw.

The bishop, quoting from the writings of Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope, uses an anecdote from the Jewish tradition showing the difference between a believer and a non-believer. An atheist approached a Rabbi with his argument against God. The Rabbi tells the atheist there are many who would agree with his argument, and many others who would argue for the existence of God. There is little that he could add, said the rabbi. except to say:  "What if?" The Pope states that the believer and non-believer both live with temptation and belief. The atheist also has doubts about his position. Both, he says, are talking about the same reality with different subjective experiences of the reality. It is  seeing the water in a cup  according to the contours.

Truth is not changed by the seeing or the relative experience of the beholder. We don't make the truth by our machinations, as if only what we can verify is reality.

Another anecdote from the Pope's writing mentions the clown who during a circus performance tries to alert those in attendance when a fire breaks out, only to find out that it was not possible; the audience thought it was just part of the show and continued to laugh as they all became  engulfed by the fire.

The bishop believes the Christian's position is like that of the clown's. We have to get rid of the make up and the clothes and get in with the people. That was what Vatican II Council attempted  but few listened.

He ends the article with the story of a Russian woman who returned to her Orthodox faith during the Communist years, and after much difficulty took refuge in the West but  condemned it for forgetting God. She said the large billboard advertisements for perfumes showed the interest of the people and their silence about God and the things of God.

Today is the Feast of Pentecost. The Feast that makes clear that God does not rest and is always leading us to a different level of understanding. We don't know how or when we are led but we pray that we will be open to his movements in our life.

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