St. Paul was a man who liked to live on the edge, especially since that’s where God put Him. Come to think of it: that’s where many of us will end up if we passionately and courageously follow the Lord wherever He tells us to go. Paul followed His Master to the city where they crucified His Lord and slew the prophets, he followed Him into the hands of superstitious Gentiles, he followed Him into the sea and into prison, and he followed Him into third heaven.
This morning, St. Paul is living on the edge of the mind of the Lord!
He had been accused by Festus, who said, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!”
In Romans 9, as Paul recounts the objections that some will have to God’s sovereign plans, he recoils, not just from the impiety of such questions and ideas towards God but also because of his proximity to the mind of God. To the idea that God is unrighteous, Paul exclaims, “Certainly not!” To those who would question the justice of a God whose will can not be resisted, Paul roars, “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Does not the potter have the power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?’”
I’m willing to hazard the guess that Paul himself once asked such questions of God and came precipitously close to seeing the mind of God in all its terror. Maybe God spoke to him a la Job 38-41. If you want to see a little more of the mind of God, let’s go there now, where for four straight chapters God speaks His mind to Job and threatens to undo him.
Like Paul’s hypothetical questioner, Job had some arrogant questions for God. God answers him out of the whirlwind, saying: “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (38:2-3). From the beginning, God puts Job in his place, which is far beneath God, in the place not of the questioner but of the questioned and judged. This kind of questioning is Satanic. The first question in the Bible is from the lips of one whose mission is to darken counsel, asking, “Hath God indeed said, ‘Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
First, notice how Satan takes God’s pure and clear commandment and turns it into a question. Not “God hath said” but “Hath God said?” By the most elementary of grammatical conjuring, Satan thus seduces our focus from obedience and faith to questioning and autonomy. Notice as well that Satan isn’t just asking an innocent question: his malevolent intent is to undermine God. He even distorts the facts, for God didn’t say Adam and Eve couldn’t eat of every tree but only of one.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know.” (Note to self: God likes sarcasm.) “Have you commanded the morning since your days began and have you entered the springs of the sea? Darkness, where is its place? Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades or loose the belt of Orion? Can you send out lightnings, that they may go, and say to you, ‘Here we are?’”
If you want to know a miniscule amount about the mind of God, then look at yourself (but not to yourself). Look at how fearfully and wonderfully made you are and when you have understood all of yourself and, by the way, can make another human from scratch by yourself, only then do you have the right to question the mind of God. The great truth about man’s puniness is that after a collective effort of 1000s of years, involving billions of people, we’re still learning the ABCs of the human body in all its glorious complexity.
Do you realize that each of the 100,000,000,000 neurons has an average of 7,000 synaptic connections to other neurons? Or that the brain of a three-year-old child has about 1,000,000,000,000,000 (1 quintillion) synapses? Do you think they all go there by chance? Do you understand how they all interact to interpret sound, taste, touch, smell, and sight? Do you know to which of the 100 billion other neurons each particular neuron is connected? Can you tell God how to fine tune the brain better? Can you tell me how emotion and thought are created?
Can you even create one neuron, let alone create 100 billion of them and place them each in their right place connected to all the correct other neurons?
“Who has put wisdom in the mind?” (Job 38:36) So far, I’ve only been talking about the brain. But what of the mind? Can you tell me how the body and soul interact to create a mind? Can you tell me where the soul is (no, it’s not in the pineal gland) and what it looks like? Surely, you can tell me what the mind of the Lord is, you who question it.
If you were to understand only a fraction of the earth-moon-sun system, you would recognize that everything is where it needs to be and that if any of a large number of factors were not in the proper range then life on earth couldn’t exist. Remember: this is only one aspect of what would be necessary to allow for life on earth: it doesn’t even begin to touch the actual complexity of this life itself. Here’s a list of factors necessary for life on planet Earth, taken from an article by Hugh Ross titled “Design and the Anthropic Principle”:
1. number of star companions
if more than one: tidal interactions would disrupt planetary orbits
if less than one: not enough heat produced for life
2. parent star birth date
if more recent: star would not yet have reached stable burning phase
if less recent: stellar system would not yet contain enough heavy elements
3. parent star age
if older: luminosity of star would not he sufficiently stable
if younger: luminosity of star would not be sufficiently stable
4. parent star distance from center of galaxy
if greater: not enough heavy elements to make rocky planets
if less: stellar density and radiation would be too great
5. parent star mass
if greater: luminosity output from the star would not be sufficiently stable
if less: range of distances appropriate for life would be too narrow; tidal forces would disrupt the rotational period for a planet of the right distance
6. parent star color
if redder: insufficient photosynthetic response
if bluer: insufficient photosynthetic response
7. surface gravity
if stronger: planet’s atmosphere would retain huge amounts of ammonia and methane
if weaker: planet’s atmosphere would lose too much water
8. distance from parent star
if farther away: too cool for a stable water cycle
if closer: too warm for a stable water cycle
9. thickness of crust
if thicker: too much oxygen would he transferred from the atmosphere to the crust
if thinner: volcanic and tectonic activity would be too great
10. rotation period
if longer: diurnal temperature differences would he too great
if shorter: atmospheric wind velocities would he too great
11. gravitational interaction with a moon
if greater: tidal effects on the oceans, atmosphere, and rotational period would he too severe
if less: earth’s orbital obliquity would change too much causing climatic instabilities
12. magnetic field
if stronger: electromagnetic storms would be too severe
if weaker: no protection from solar wind particles
13. axial tilt
if greater: surface temperature differences would be too great
if less: surface temperature differences would he too great
14. albedo (ratio of reflected light to total amount falling on surface)
if greater: runaway ice age would develop
if less: runaway greenhouse effect would develop
15. oxygen to nitrogen ratio in atmosphere
if larger: life functions would proceed too quickly
if smaller: life functions would proceed too slowly
16. carbon dioxide and water vapor levels in atmosphere
if greater: runaway greenhouse effect would develop
if less: insufficient greenhouse effect
17. ozone level in atmosphere
if greater: surface temperatures would become too low
if less: surface temperatures would he too high; too much uv radiation at surface
18. atmospheric electric discharge rate
if greater: too much fire destruction
if less: too little nitrogen fixing in the soil
19. seismic activity
if greater: destruction of too many life-forms
if less: nutrients on ocean floors would not be uplifted
Here are some other mysteries to ponder why you’re at it. I believe with all my heart and all my soul and all my strength that God became man and that the Son was incarnated into human flesh. But don’t ask me how God did it or how it can be. I likewise believe that God is 3 and God is 1, but likewise, don’t ask me how.
Myself am mystery. How can God, whose mind I have been extolling, the study of which threatens to blow my little mind, dwell inside me? I am too small for I AM, so how can it be? Worse, I often wonder how the holy, holy, holy Lord can stand me when I stink of sin. Yes, I know that He’s dealt with it and paid the price and washed my sins whiter than snow, but still I sin? How can this be?
I know of another mystery, perhaps the greatest of all. I know something of it, not all of it, but I know enough of it for me to be satisfied with all of the mysteries, though mysteries they shall ever remain. I know love. I know the love of my Creator, and I know the love of my Redeemer. I know the love He has shown me in my parents and siblings and wife and kids. I know this love through that greater mystery, the Church, the Body and Bride of Christ, into whom He has poured His mind and love.
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
“For who has known the mind of the LORD?
Or who has become His counselor?
“Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?”
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever.
Prayer: O all ye Works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Angels of the Lord, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Heavens, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Waters that be above the Firmament, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O all ye Powers of the Lord, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Sun and Moon, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Stars of Heaven, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Showers and Dew, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Winds of God, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Fire and Heat, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Winter and Summer, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Dews and Frosts, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Frost and Cold, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Ice and Snow, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Nights and Days, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Light and Darkness, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Lightnings and Clouds, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O let the Earth bless the Lord : yea, let it praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Mountains and Hills, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O all ye Green Things upon the Earth, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Wells, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Seas and Floods, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Whales, and all that move in the Waters, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O all ye Fowls of the Air, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O all ye Beasts and Cattle, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Children of Men, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O let Israel bless the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Priests of the Lord, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Servants of the Lord, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye Spirits and Souls of the Righteous, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O ye holy and humble Men of heart, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
O Ananias, Azarias and Misael, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.
Let us bless the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost: praise Him and magnify Him forever. Amen. (The Benedicite, omnia opera)
Point for Meditation:
1. Take time to ponder one of these mysteries of the mind of God today. Allow yourself to be amazed and humbled and awakened by your encounter with the mind of God!
2. How does catching a glimpse of the mind of God make you feel?
Resolution: I resolve to meditate on the mind of God today and allow Him to speak to me today. As I so meditate, I resolve to hear and obey what He will say to me.
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day