April 3, 2022, 5th Sunday of Lent
I love libraries. Not so much the big public libraries as the small personal libraries that many of us have in our homes. Whether the library has only a few books or hundreds of books, libraries tell us a lot about who we are, who we were, or who we aspired to be. They are filled with interesting information, knowledge, and wisdom. Have you noticed how often the people presented to us as TV experts place themselves in front of a wall of books? People place themselves in front of books because it makes them look smarter and that they can be trusted. The great Albert Einstein said, “The only thing you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”
There is an especially interesting library that seems relevant today as we reflect on the words of the prophet Isaiah: Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” The story of this new thing is a library – and this library tells the story of the Cosmos as it springs forth from what we call the Big Bang.
This library is an imaginary one – a way of telling the story of Creation as we understand it today. It’s a way to help us get our heads around the immense amount of time since the dawn of creation. This library holds the history of the universe.
Picture, if you will a small library of 30 large volumes. Just 30 books. Each book is only 450 pages long.
Here is the catch: Each page stands for 1,000,000 years.
30 books, 450 pages, 1m years each page.
So, let’s open the volume 1 and look at page 1. The cosmic story begins 13,800,000,000 years ago.
The first 21 volumes pretty much have to do with lifeless physical, chemical, stellar and galactic processes.
Our own solar system – which we call The Milky Way -doesn’t even appear until the beginning of volume 21, about 4.5 billion years ago.
Our planet Earth is formed, and life begins to appear in volume 22, about 3.8 billion years ago. Life on our planet is still single-cell organisms until volume 29 of our 30-volume library. Dinosaurs show up around the middle of volume 30 and they go extinct on page 384. Only about the last 66 pages feature the flourishing of mammalian life. Humanoids make their appearance only about half-way down page 450. Self-reflection, ethics, religions, arrive in the universe only in the last paragraph of the last page of the last volume of our library.
So, when God tells Isaiah, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” I believe God is talking about us – about human beings. We – humanity – is truly something new in the universe. Humanity, with all our wonderful variations and diversity of size, shape and color are truly a new thing in the universe – in the history of the cosmos.
If you ask for wonder in your life, if you yearn for awe-inspiring experiences to awaken you from lethargy or free you from a debilitating cynicism then meditate on the reality of this library and consider this:
Our library is not closed. The last volume has not been published. Our story is still being written. And we have no idea how long it might be or how large our library may become. There could be another 30 volumes or more to be written. And, after 13,800,000,000 years of evolution, we may still be at the dawn of creation. The future is open, the future is yet to be written, not only for and by us (humans) but for and by all creation.
It is this openness to the future that inspires me and gives me hope. It is how I understand the words of Isaiah when his prophetic voice proclaims:
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
Here is something else that is new. We continue to evolve, continue to become more aware of what it means to be human and be in relationships with other people. Jesus, in the story of the woman caught in adultery, gives an example of this new thing – shows us the possibilities of human relations. Here is a person, a woman, rooted in her time, living in her culture and subject to social and religious structures.
Jesus breaks through the cultural, social, and religious structures of their time and place.
He not only refrains from any condemnation but sends her on her way without demanding a confession, forcing contrition, and exacting punishment. He sends her on her way, he gives her a new future, he gives her the freedom to make a new future for herself, Jesus gives her a new freedom to begin to learn to love again – gives her the freedom to know herself and love herself as God knows her and loves her.
Friends, may we open ourselves through prayer, open ourselves through gratitude, open ourselves through fidelity and worship that we may have eyes to see and ears to hear the Spirit of Life as we continue to live together into the future, as we continue to live together into God’s Peace.