There may be evidence for a Big Bang, but there is no evidence that there was simply nothing, ‘no thing’ whatsoever before it. What went bang? ‘Nothing’ cannot go bang. You do not need to be a scientist to know that, a two year old child knows that.
What created this surge of energy that has been bursting outward for 13.82 billion years? Energy does not come from nowhere, it comes from somewhere. Only atheists believe that it comes from nothing, because they are terrified of hell which for them is believing in God and having to throw in their lot with, what they call the ‘god-lot,’ who they cannot abide.
Whatever this something was that preceded the Big Bang, must have contained within it the most important energy of all that makes the world worth living in; it must have contained love. That means that what might at first sight appear to be ‘something’, must in fact be ‘someone’, because only someone can love and communicate love to others. The ancient philosophers who have never been surpassed in their profound reasoning, were able to reason to the existence of a first cause, but even the best of them, Aristotle, could not argue to a God of love, because love is beyond reason. If we experience the joy of hearing someone say to you, “I love you,” then thank God for it, because that love ultimately comes from him. Don’t ask, “Why do you love me?” because there is no answer to that question, because you do not deserve it. The first person to know where that love comes from with absolute clarity was not a great philosopher, but a great theologian. His name was St John who wrote the fourth gospel. He knew, not just because someone told him, but because he experienced that love. It was this experience, perhaps more than anything else that enabled him to see and understand, not just that God is Love, but that God is Loving and that he is Loving all the time, and that this Loving explains everything that he is, and everything he does.
Although Aristotle was able to reason to the existence of God, he was unable to define the inner nature of God, because he realised, quite rightly, that God is infinitely beyond the finite understanding of human reason. But, what reason did enable him to understand, was that whatever God’s inner nature is, there can be no difference between what he is in himself, and what he does. If God is love therefore, he must be loving too, because he must do what he is, and be what he does.
Some years ago I had dinner with friends in London. On my way out they introduced me to their father who was busy working in the garden. Without thinking I asked him what he was doing and he replied, “I do be digging the garden.” Some months later I met a nun who taught Irish in Dublin and I asked her about this expression that I never come across before. She explained that it was an English translation of what in Irish is called the present continuing tense. “Well, what does it mean?” I asked, “What was he trying to say to me?” “What he was saying was this,” she said. “I have been digging the garden, I am digging the garden and when you stop asking the obvious, I will continue digging the garden.” We do not have such a tense in English, but the present continuing tense perfectly embodies the meaning of what St John learned from studying the Old Testament, and from his own personal experience of being loved by Jesus. When he said, “God is love,” he meant that God has been loving us, is loving us now, and will continue to love us. In short, God is Loving.
You do not have to be a theologian to understand all this. Even I grasped it before I was six years of age, thanks to my favourite radio program, ‘Toy Town’, on what was then called, ‘Children’s Hour’. I loved Larry the Lamb who used to refer to everybody by what they did, just so they would never forget who they were. It was a case of “Good morning, Mr Policeman, sir,” or “Good morning, Mr Magician, or “Mr Inventor”, ‘or “Mr Grouser sir”. When one day the parish priest called, as they did in those days, he looked at me and then pointed to the picture of the Sacred Heart on the wall and said, “And who is that?” Without a moment’s hesitation, I said “That is Mr Loving”. Everybody burst out laughing except the parish priest who said, “He is absolutely right.” But when he asked me who told me this, I said nothing. If I said I learnt it from Toy Town and from Larry the Lamb they would all have started laughing again. But I was right. Jesus is Mr Loving. But, he was more than that, for he came with a message that was revolutionary. Henceforth human beings will be made better, and made perfect, by love and by love alone.
I was an academic failure at school because I was dyslexic, at a time when nobody understood the why’s or the wherefores of dyslexia. I would have ended up on life’s scrap heap, a social drop out, and an utter disappointment to my family were it not for one thing. My mother loved me with an all consuming, but never selfish love, that gave me the strength to overcome my disadvantages, enabling me to teach myself to read and write. I therefore made a future for myself that ultimately enabled me to make a living as a freelance writer. It has been a long journey and I have fallen many times but somehow I have managed to get up fighting – so far. Love can make possible what is totally impossible without it. Love gives people strength, it gives them security, maturity and enables them to become ever more perfect human beings. If human love can do this, how much more can divine love.
The Gospel is the story of how God’s love, the Holy Spirit, progressively penetrated the human nature of Jesus Christ. It was the tangible experience of being loved by God that was the source of his inner security and strength. His prime purpose in life was to tell people where the love that animated him came from, and then to show them how to receive and experience it for themselves, transforming them into ever more perfect human beings. That is why prayer was so important in his life on earth. That is why he continually turned to prayer himself, because that is the place where the love of his Father entered into him, making him into the most mature and secure and loving human being who ever walked on this earth.
The Gospel is not so much a story with a moral, but with a promise, and the promise is, if we do what Jesus did, then what happened to Him will happen to us. We too will be filled progressively with the love of God, the Holy Spirit who first conceived him in his mother’s womb, and who continually entered into a life that was one long prayer. He practised ‘the prayer without ceasing’ long before he recommended it to others. However, prayer without ceasing has first to be learned at set times, when we learn the most important lesson in life, and that is how to love God in such a way that we can become more and more open to receive his love in return. The great mystic Blessed Angela of Foligno said that prayer is the school where loving is learnt through practice. When more and more of us return to this school to learn the most important lesson of all, then the love that first set the ancient world alive with the love of God, will do the same again for our world. For with love all things are possible, that are quite impossible without it.