Fr. Glenn: Off You Go!

By Rev. Glenn Jones
Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
Los Alamos

It seems that the Faith and Science forum will be starting up again this week, with an apparent focus on evolution for this summer season. Should be some interesting talks. 

Even though the existence of the numerous different Christian denominations should make the fact obvious, many non-Christians seem to be unaware that Christians are not monolithic in many basic beliefs—evolution being one of them. Beliefs concerning the Bible and the interpretation of scripture—especially of the Creation accounts of Genesis—range from the literalist to the belief that Creation accounts are moral stories meant to teach truths about God.

The Catholic Church’s interpretation leans much more heavily toward the latter than the former. Popes from Pius XII onward have discussed the likelihood of evolution, recognizing that it fits overwhelmingly with scientific discoveries and data. Even early Fathers of the Church (including St. Augustine of the 300s) noted that the stories contained in early Genesis should be primarily seen as teaching stories rather than literal historical accounts. One might note that there are two Creation accounts in early Genesis—one in which Man was created last (Gen. 1), and one in which Man was created prior to the plants and animals (Gen. 2). So immediately is the problem of reconciling two disparate stories.

This isn’t to be critical of those who believe in a strictly literal interpretation; that’s what they believe and they may have some explanation. Anytime there are differences of opinion or interpretation of what is true in anything, only one—or none—is correct.

Some non-believers might leap to retort: “You believe differently. Doesn’t that indicate that such belief in a divine being is wrong?” Hardly. Scientists have varying theories all the time, which certainly doesn’t negate science! But as I mentioned in a recent column, science has the “luxury” of being based in the physically measurable, while faith is based on that which is not as tangibly discerned. Yet in Pope John Paul II’s encyclical “Faith and Reason”, he explains how true faith and true science cannot conflict because their source is the same: God.  

Science is simply the exploration and discernment of God’s creation, and thus is limited to the human discernibility of that creation. Human senses by definition pose limitation, however; who knows how many “senses” we may lack and cannot even imagine—sort of like insects which see spectra which we cannot. So, with the “data” we have, there are ample reasons to believe (or at least posit the possibility if belief still eludes) in that self-existent Being/Source that believers call “God”.

Well, we could stay on that subject all day … but hearty congratulations to our LAHS graduates! … and to ALL who graduated from various schools and colleges this season. May God continue to bless you in your plans and endeavors and lives.

On such occasions, we “old folks” look upon our young ones wistfully … and with no little tenderness—anxious for the dangers which await them, and yet envious of the excitement and opportunities that lay ahead, and yet yearning to impart all that we’ve learned from often hard-gained experience over the years. 

Yet, in all things … always look ahead to what really matters—to the eternal. In youth we tend to focus upon the immediate future … immediate fulfillment … immediate pleasures. But know that our lasting—indeed, our eternal, good—lay nowhere apart from the way of truth. For we Christians, that means the way of Christ.

One of the best secular passages of advice comes from — probably not too surprisingly — The Bard himself, in that great soliloquy of Polonius bidding farewell to son Laertes:

…There; my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in the memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familier, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear’t that the opposed may be aware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgement.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
…neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow as the night the day,
Thou canst not be false to any man.
(Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3)

Great literature gains its status AS great literature for a reason—it speaks eloquently and perceptively of our human condition, and can be your source of much wisdom. And we Christians recognize no greater source of wisdom than scripture.

In the words of Yoda: “Remember what you have learned. Save you it can!” And when things do not go your way, and the inevitable difficulties of life come hard and fast, remember the wisdom of J.R.R. Tolkien in that wonderful trilogy “The Lord of the Rings”: “…despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not … For even the very wise cannot see all ends … All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

So, as St. Paul exhorts us: “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Fare well, young ones, and…

“The LORD bless you and keep you:
The LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
(Numbers 6:24-26)
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