Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Contemplating the "Awe" of our Faith.

    That's "awesome".  We have heard our young people, many of whom are not so young any longer, say this for several years now regarding any number of things that get their attention in a positive way.  Nothing is wrong with that to be sure, but when is the last time we heard anyone say that our faith is awesome, that what God has done for us is awesome?

   Too many people come away from Mass or other religious services and say that it was "boring". Why is that? Some say that because of our culture people expect church to be entertaining. Others say that because of modern science and the widespread explanation of so many things that once seemed to have no explanation that religion is more and more dismissed as "mythical nonsense".  There is some truth to both of these assertions and some remedies that might be suggested.  I would like to follow another path, however, on the subject of awe, faith and religion.

   Today I came across and advertisement for a National Geographic six part series, beginning, I believe, this Sunday, April 3 at 9 Eastern, 8 Central, called The Story of God and featuring one of my favorite actors, Morgan Freeman.  (Do check local listings to be sure of date/time).  While Mr. Freeman played God in a rather frivolous movie called Bruce Almighty, and while he is not someone I turn to for my theology, this special looks to be an interesting and serious exploration of how people in different religions see God.

  In an interview about the series Mr. Freeman made the statement, "Awe is the Beginning of God."  While these words could be taken to mean that when humans first experienced awe they invented God, I don't think that is what he meant.  It was more the fact that when our early ancestors first experienced the awesomeness  of the world around them, of the unexplainable, they came to realize that there is indeed God.

   For me viewing the images of the various parts of the universe that come from the Hubble telescope inspires awe, as does appreciating the beauty of the ocean, as does the birth of a child and so many other things.  Perhaps one of the keys to evangelizing our young people then is to instill in them a sense of awe, wonder and mystery even before we teach religious doctrine.  To simply stand in awe before some of these things and to ask how they came to be is the foundation of belief in a God who not only created everything, but who is at work now and continuing to create.

   As for the specifics of our Catholic and Christian faith I point out in my book, Following Jesus in the Footsteps of Francis, that St. Francis marveled at the beauty of creation and and at the mightiness of the God who created, a God whom he saw as "Most High and Glorious"  He then marvels at how this mighty God became one of what I call his "big WOW."  He was not a professional theologian but he was able to put together the notion that God is at the same time mighty and unexplainable as well as intimately close to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  That is indeed awesome.
   Jesus told us that to enter the Kingdom we must become as little children.   Perhaps what that means is that we must never lose the capacity to be awestruck that we see in little children.

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