Genesis 16:1-12, 15-16
It was Karl Marx who said, "Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."
The readings from Genesis we’ve been sharing these last couple of days narrate a different story! They could hardly qualify as anesthetizing or escapist; these Scripture passages are real stories about real people, not some never-never-land of our dreams. Today we hear of abuse within a family, a runaway, and a cantankerous and irascible personality; yesterday we struggled with painful family disputes over property. The happy, care-free family life might have existed on old TV sitcoms, but God’s Word is sharper than any two-edged sword! Perhaps that is where we most authentically encounter our loving God, viz., in the messiness of everyday, normal encounters, not in some idealized (and romanticized) perfect utopia.
Contemporary spiritual writers are saying a lot of the so-called popular atheists might have a handle on this. Too many Catholics today feel that to have strong faith in church means they must leave their brains at the door! Nothing could be further from the truth. If our faith means "blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence," (Richard Dawkins), then the god we worship must die, creating a space for a bigger God, a more authentic God.
To build our house on rock means we are willing to integrate all we know from the behavioral and natural sciences, …physics, cosmology, cultural anthropology, archaeology. Suddenly we realize that science is not the opponent of religion, it is the colleague. The insights of Copernicus, Albert Einstein, or Edwin Hubble have assisted us in engaging this God of mystery, whereby we must "expect the unexpected" (Cardinal Suenens), not some puny god we grab by his divine ankles and domesticate for our own purposes.
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. is the director of the Office of Mission Effectiveness. He is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.