Sunday Scriptures

Teaching ‘The Mystery Of God’ Is My Love

By Rev. Jean-Pierre Ruiz

In a course I love to teach, “The Mystery of God,” one assignment invites my students to ponder the relationship between religion and science.

Many of them — including the biology and chemistry majors preparing for careers in the health professions — arrive in my class convinced that science eclipses religion, providing solid answers to the mysteries of nature.

Religion, on the other hand, offers what many of them regard as quaint tales of a deity who took just six days to fashion the universe.

They are surprised to learn that the Vatican operates a world-class observatory, which includes the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope on Mount Graham in Arizona.

“Wait a minute,” they have asked, “Do you really mean that the same Church that put Galileo on trial runs an observatory?” Yes, it does, and that’s not all.

My students are just as surprised to learn that the scientist responsible for the Big Bang theory was a diocesan priest from Belgium named Georges Lemaître. I challenge them to rethink their preconceptions of the relationship between religion and science by reflecting on this statement:

“Science owes its faith in an intelligible universe to religion.” Simply stated, religion affirms that the universe makes sense, and so the work of science is to investigate this well-ordered universe with care and rigor. If scientists did not believe that the universe made sense, their efforts and energy would be spent in vain. So, as Jesuit priest and astrophysicist Matteo Galaverni recently observed, “for someone of faith it’s an easy step to recognize in this order the footprint of God.” Hardly at odds with each other, faith and reason, religion and science, actually go hand in hand.

The Book of Proverbs affirms all of this splendidly in Sunday’s first reading. In this poem divine wisdom is personified, singing of her presence at the dawn of creation: “When the Lord established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep.” Wisdom goes on to boast, “When the Lord established the heavens I was there…then was I beside him as his craftsman, and I was his delight day by day, playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the human race.” The Hebrew word that the lectionary translates as “craftsman” can also be rendered as “confidant,” “artist,” and even “little child,” — a translation that suits well the pleasure God takes in seeing divine wisdom at play. There’s no drudgery in the work of creation, only divine delight!

This joy spills over into this Sunday’s psalm, with its response, “O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!” The psalmist’s admiration for the magnificence of creation inspires sincere humility: “When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you set in place — what is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?”

The psalmist exultantly recognizes that human beings are also God’s handiwork, “You have made him little less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under his feet.” Whether we are scientists or ordinary stargazers, may we never fail to recognize the glory of God in the splendor of creation.

Readings for The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Proverbs 8:22-31

Romans 5:1-5

John 16:12-15

Father Ruiz, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, is a professor of theology at St. John’s University, Jamaica.