"If I'm still here, then God still loves me."
This is probably my favourite line from Fr. Clair Watrin, a dear friend and wonderful priest. Within this simple phrase is great theological depth—a depth that has captivated me these last few months.
I'm as guilty as most people for inadvertently characterizing God as a supreme being who looks down benevolently on the world he created, just another item within or alongside the universe. It's this very image that atheists scoff at, and for good reason. As science strains against the boundaries of what we understand—from the smallest chemical reactions in our brains all the way to the far edges of the universe—there seems to be little need left for a fairytale creator to explain away the mysteries of the world. From their perspective, it seems about as reasonable to believe in the flying spaghetti monster as it is to believe in an invisible person who sits in heaven (wherever that is), and magically "poofed" the world into existence.
If that is what we meant by "God", I would be as steadfast an atheist as they!
I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a women's retreat at The Way of Holiness near Hinton, Alberta, a few weekends ago. Beyond the wonderful talks, female fellowship, and amazing food, the weekend was superbly rejuvenating for the hours I was able to spend in prayer, contemplation, and reading. I was drawn to a particular book: Vibrant Paradoxes by Bishop Robert Barron. I devoured the section on Reason and Faith in the course of an afternoon. Amid the many fascinating gems inked on those pages, one truth in particular practically leapt out at me. To quote my favourite lines:
What reflective religious people mean when they speak of God is not something within the universe, but rather the condition for the possibility of the universe as such, the non-contingent ground of contingency. (p.72)
The true God is the non-contingent ground of the contingent universe, the reason there is something rather than nothing, the ultimate explanation for why the world should exist at all. Accordingly, he is not a being, but rather, as Thomas Aquinas put it, ipsum esse subsistens, the sheer act of to-be itself. (p.66)
The unmoved mover is that which exists in a state of pure realization, that which cannot be improved in its being, that which simply is, that which is utterly in act. (p. 81)
And further, to understand why we believe that our God is a loving God:
The sheerly unconditioned act of to-be itself is in possession of every possible ontological perfection, and hence requires no completion, no improvement. He needs nothing. And yet the universe, in all of its astonishing complexity and beauty, exists. Since God could not have made it out of self-interest, it can only follow that he made it out of love, which is to say, a desire to share his goodness...
God continually loves the universe into existence. (p.67)
But it all swept over me like tidal wave as I pondered this quote from Thomas Merton, who said that contemplation is...
..to find that place in you where you are here and now being created by God.
I was kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, and an image was placed on my heart, that of massive hands tenderly cradling a person—hands literally teeming with every imaginable life form and structure and substance all intertwined in constant motion, being born and dying and becoming new again, all so that this person should come to know their Creator.
And thus this graphic was born. It is grossly lacking from the concept I would really like to portray—but alas, not even Photoshop can incorporate representatives from every imaginable genus, and depict it in all of the glorious complexity that is our universe.
But I hope the basic message is there:
That God is the reason there is something rather than nothing. He is the reason there is beauty and order. He made all of this so he could know and love you, and you could know and love him in return. Here and now, you are being constantly and lovingly breathed into being.