Scripture reflections – Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Wis 12:13,16-19; Rom 8:26-27; Mt 13: 24 – 43

  According to the best fossil and DNA evidence currently available, paleontologists and anthropologists estimate that anatomically modern humans  evolved somewhere between 200,000 and 100,000 thousand years ago.   You have to move inside of 30,000 years ago, however before incontrovertible evidence emerges that human beings had reached the level of intellectual development we call consciousness.

Imagine how terrifying that experience must have been for our most distant ancestors.  I picture it something like this: One day, you’re strolling across the Serengeti or somewhere on the coast of South Africa and it hits you – I am surrounded by things that can kill me.  Volcanoes.   Brushfires.  Predatory animals.   Other guys who look like me carrying big rocks.

It’s no surprise that the earliest religious beliefs we know of tend to imagine the gods and goddesses as rather unconcerned about human welfare. Certainly there are some exceptions  (Prometheus comes to mind – but look what happened to him!) but for the most part the gods were scary.

Yet the book of Wisdom recalls that many centuries before the time of Jesus, in the formative years of a people we call the Jews, something different happened: “You gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentence for them.”   Could it possibly be that small, terrified humanity might be in the hands of a merciful God?

Despite the Incarnation and 2,000 years of witnesses to this joyous truth we still have trouble overcoming that initial terror lodged deep in our DNA.   Maybe this is a good modern way to understand original sin.  

What’s most important, however, is to accept in Faith this wonderful truth that our deepest terrors and fears of isolation are grounded only in biology and not reality.  We matter.   Our lives have meaning. We are loved.

Let that be the mustard seed you plant in your heart today.

Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)

(To find my book-length reflections on the scriptures, go to

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