In the past few days I have watched small sections of two programs on the television, both on the Discovery Channel. These two programs were not part of a series, but they were indirectly connected. The first was about the earth, and its relationship to the Milky Way galaxy in which we live.
Really, it was about galaxies and their formation, and how life came to them. It seems that the latest theory is that we may have been sent here in a massive slab of ice.
What has troubled scientists, evidently, is that life developed here so quickly … too quickly for their comfort. One minute it seems there was no life and then the next the place is teeming with life. So how did it start? No one has the answer to that, and although they all agree … apparently … that the earth is well able to support life it lacks the mechanism to start it.
So far so good. Outer space, I’m told, has massive lumps of ice whizzing around. Some are as big as the earth. We see them from time to time and we call them comets. A comet bashing into the earth when there was little or no atmosphere would scatter the ice into fragments over a very wide area and, as water covers a great deal of the surface area of the earth, some or all of it could go into the water, melt and release the life forms trapped in it. Don’t ask me how the life forms got into it in the first place, because I have not the beginnings of an idea.
Now onto the second program. These life forms were three in number, bugs, mollusks and vertebrates. The bugs had shells as part of their body structure to protect them and were the top of the food chain; and mollusks had shells or acquired shells and were next down the line, vertebrates had an inner skeleton and were the bottom of the list.
The bugs grew big, maybe six or seven feet long, and had two claw-like structures to dig out vertebrates hiding in the sand, these were then pushed back into their round jaws full of powerful teeth. These mega bugs ruled the world for 15 million years and seemed set to do so for ever. Then came an ice age and most of the life perished, but not all. The sun regained its force and the ice melted. All three forms survived, but the bugs moved out onto the land but their shell structures did not allow them to grow big, though by all accounts some got as big as five foot long. However the harsh environment meant that they downsized to survive better, and today they are the bugs and insects that inhabit our world from ants and mites to beetles and cockroaches.
That left the mollusks to reign supreme in the sea and, for some millions of years, they ruled with a reign of terror as great as the megabugs before the ice age.
The going of the ice age, and the accumulation of atmosphere, enabled plants to grow and mollusks and vertebrates ventured out onto the land, but on land it was the vertebrates that were the best adapted to succeed. Mollusks on land … slugs and snails to you and me … were never a threat to the vertebrates, and neither were the bugs, though we should not forget that mosquitoes have killed more humans than any other single creature or disease, and mosquitoes … who are still closely associated with water … are descendents of the megabugs that terrorized the seas millions of years ago.
Well, who or what is holding all this life in order … or who set the order and how is it that one of the vertebrates has developed to such a point that it might be described as having intelligence? Certainly it can consider its own creation.
Well now, in the reading from Hebrews this morning, it said God sustains all things by his powerful word, and St. John, in his gospel, says that Christ is that word made flesh. If this is true, then what we see in Christ is the earthly print of God himself. If we follow the reports of what Christ said and did, we could come to the conclusion that the controlling factor is love.
That is quite tough to take on board because we saw that megabugs ruled through terror and so did the mollusks that followed them, and we have been pretty ruthless in our ruling of the world on behalf of the vertebrates.
I leave you to decide whether there is a plan in all this that is obvious.
Certainly, the vertebrates could not have got out on land before the ice age and survived. How or why the balance of power has to be maintained, through what seems like violence, I do not know.
Maybe from the perspective of the creator of the universe it doesn’t appear as random violence, but as the selection of the weakest agents that must be removed in order to keep everything going.
If a plan is laid down, but it goes a bit haywire … like the age of the dinosaurs … then a climate change will alter it all. Nature appears to me to be always on a knife-edge and the smallest upset will change everything for ever.
That’s why … just to digress … the felling of the Amazon and Orinoco rainforest has to stop. It’s changing the world’s climate and not for the better. In just the same way, we were blessed when someone discovered that we had blown a hole in the ozone layer. It is slowly being healed, but will take a hundred years or so of good behavior to do it. If we hadn’t begun to reverse our pollution, we would all have been radiated into extinction.
Maybe the megabugs would have come back into prominence.
We know that, within our vertebrate society of humans, when love is its driving force and foundation, the results are good. We feel better, and enjoy life more. I think it is because we are cooperating more effectively with the creator.
Christ has put a human face on God.
That is good for giving us an understanding of how things might work but let us not be fooled into thinking that God, our creator, is human anymore than he is a mollusk or a megabug.
God is God and there our real knowledge ends.
To know more, or understand more, we need to look at Christ, and here we can glimpse some of God’s characteristics.
We can study the fascinating unfolding of our world, but if we want to know who it is who controls the universe, we need to start by studying one of his vertebrate creations.
I hardly need to tell you that this is the Christ of our faith.
When we know about him, we will know better what is going on in our world, and what our part is in the scheme of things.