Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 12, 2017
There is an international project named “BREAKTHROUGH STARSHOT” that is making rapid advances in the development of wafer-sized space probes, which are a little thicker than a postage stamp. Known by scientists as starchips, or nanocrafts…(“nano” meaning tiny) these ultra-light vehicles are equipped with cameras and other equipment that will gather data from around the universe. The hope is that information will be transmitted back to Earth by the starchips that will enable humankind to discover potentially habitable planets.
Many scientists believe that there is a great urgency to the work of space exploration and travel because the “end times” for planet Earth are upon us. They foresee a mass “exodus” from our home planet to a “new world”, the next “promised land”… if human life is to continue. That is one thing that religion and science agree upon with certainty – Earth cannot last forever.
What does all of this have to do with our Sunday Readings?
“BREAKTHROUGH STARSHOT” is a means to travel deeper into outer space. However, we might also use the concept as a vehicle to transport us deeper into Jesus’s teaching about the coming of the Kingdom. Granted, to older folks, words like “nanocrafts” and “starchips” seem like pure fantasy and figments of overactive imaginations. But the idea of space travel and planetary migration is part of the lived reality of our younger generation which has been raised in an age of hi-tech and high speed. They carry entire libraries in their pockets. The knowledge of the ages is contained in their cell phones, so it is no surprise to them that these mini-explorers will travel 1/5th the speed of light or 134 million miles per hour. That’s about 1000 times faster than any space vehicle to date.
The young don’t ask, “How can they do that?” Instead, they ask impatiently: “How soon can they get this done?”
These vehicles will be shot into space by laser beams that provide the wind that will be captured by tiny onboard sails that are only a few atoms thick. These flying postage stamps will “sail” on light that is beaming down to Earth. That light is the sea that will carry them to their destination, which will hopefully welcome humankind to our new home.
Encouraged by science and technology, and eager for a new beginning, our kids are looking deep into the universe for a “promised land.” And someday, they might just well arrive there. But, it is critical that they carry with them not just scientific knowledge, which itself is a gift from God, but WISDOM!
Our First Reading describes the beauty and importance of WISDOM. Without WISDOM, we run the risk of becoming spiritually nearsighted; we see only what is immediately in front of us. Science and technology become larger than they truly are. Without WISDOM, which reminds us that all human accomplishments are part of the Divine plan, we run the risk of depending entirely on ourselves and not God, Who is the Source of all knowledge…and hope.
There are lots and lots of things that are happening in our world that are sucking the hope for a happy future right out of our kids. Global warming, terrorism, the threat of nuclear annihilation, and dwindling natural resources. In order to make certain that they look beyond science to God as the Source of all hope, we need to talk their talk. We need to use images that are as much a part of their lived reality as “oil lamps” were to the people listening to Jesus speak. It is our duty to pass on more than knowledge. We have to pass on WISDOM as well. And WISDOM tells us that the ultimate destination of humankind is not another solar system, not another planet on the other side of the universe…but the Kingdom of God.
So, we might say to them that the Kingdom of God is like “BREAKTHROUGH STARSHOT.” Tiny fragments of The Creator, so small that they are invisible to the most powerful of microscopes, have been placed by God into every human being called into life on Earth. But these flesh and blood bodies are like plant Earth. Our bodies are not intended to last forever. And when the earthly bodies die, the invisible part of us…that God has placed within each of us…is projected out of this reality toward a new world…a fresh beginning that will never end…a promised land of perfect and infinite peace.
The energy that these tiny God chips need to BREAK THROUGH is LOVE!
Love is like the oil that burned in the lamps that Jesus was talking about. LOVE is like that laser beam that will project starchips onto light beams that will carry them to new planets…new worlds. Love is the energy that will project the tiny piece of eternity within each of us onto the Light of Christ that will transport us to our final destination…not another planet or universe…but to another reality…the Kingdom of God.
In the opening line of our Second Reading, St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians: We do not want you to be unaware…about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest who have no hope. We don’t want our kids to be unaware about the end times. We want them to look at life and death with the WISDOM that comes from God. We want them to face the threats and challenges of this world with Christian hope. So, we use their language and their images to encourage them to love God and others above all else because love is the energy that will carry them to eternal joy in the Kingdom of God. Love is the only way to BREAK THROUGH to the other side.