“We already had our shot … Jesus himself gave us the flu shot,” said Gloria Copeland, a televangelist. Implying that the faithful don’t need flu shots but to rely on their faith, is one of the oldest misuses of our faith… for if we have enough faith, we can be healed.
Or not have the flu at all.
But knowing a little biology, we know this is not how our world works. It is a grave misunderstanding of science & our faith, especially in a year when the flu has been so deadly, to think we can have faith and the flu will avoid us. I find her comments to be reckless.
I have my flu shot.
There is too often in our society an “us vs. them” mentality, and too often science and religion is depicted as such rivals. I came across these words from Fr. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan Priest, that helps us to move past this rivalry approach. He writes:
“When I was growing up, the common perception was that science and religion were at odds. Now that we are coming to understand the magnificent nature of the cosmos, we’re finding that many of the intuitions of mystics of all religions are paralleled by scientific theories and explanations. All disciplines are just approaching truth from different angles and levels and questions.
It’s easy to imagine the delight Francis of Assisi found by turning skyward. I can picture him filled with wonder at God’s goodness on display: “he often overflowed with amazing, unspeakable joy as he looked at the sun, gazed at the moon, or observed the stars in the sky.” Thomas Aquinas also intuited this deep connection when he wrote, “Any mistake we make about creation will also be a mistake about God.” Inner and outer realities mirror one another.
Ilia Delio, a Franciscan sister and scientist, shares how our view of the universe and God has been evolving. During the Middle Ages, when most Christian theology was developed, the universe was thought to be centered around humans and the Earth. Scientists saw the universe as anthropocentric, unchanging, mechanistic, orderly, predictable, and hierarchical. Christians viewed God, the “Prime Mover,” in much the same way, with the same static and predictable characteristics—omnipotent and omniscient, but not really loving. God was “out there” somewhere, separate from us and the universe. The unique and central message of the Christian religion—incarnation (God with us in our humanity)—was not really taken seriously by most Christians. In fact, our whole salvation plan was largely about getting away from this earth!
Today, we know that the universe is old, large, dynamic, and interconnected. It is about 13.7 billion years old, and some scientists think it could still exist for 100 trillion years. The universe has been expanding since its birth. Our home planet, Earth, far from being the center of the universe, revolves around the Sun, a medium-sized star near the edge of a medium-sized galaxy, the Milky Way, which contains about 200 billion stars. The Milky Way is about 100,000 light years in diameter. Furthermore, it is one of 100 billion galaxies in the universe. We do not appear to be the center of anything. And yet, by faith we trust that we are.
Delio writes: We’re reaching a fork in the road; two paths are diverging on planet Earth, and the one we choose will make all the difference for the life of the planet. Shall we continue our medieval religious practices in a medieval paradigm and mechanistic culture and undergo extinction? Or shall we wake up to this dynamic, evolutionary universe and the rise of consciousness toward an integral wholeness?
We are called to make the paradigm shift to a new cosmology.” [Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 169.]
This shift, away from the old into a new way of seeing ourselves as part of God’s creation – an integral wholeness and connection with all that God has made – is tied in how we use science to explore our planet and our universe. It is to see God’s power and glory in renewed ways and one that is connected to us.
We live, move, and have our being in love and through this understanding we are a part of one shared humanity in a new cosmology, a new understanding of our place in the universe.
For the God who brought Elijah up through a whirlwind, to the beautiful and dazzling brightness of Jesus on the holy mountain and the Transfiguration, it is God who calls us to see this power and glory not only in those events & in creation but to see them in our God given gifts too. These gifts that are given to us to use for each other, gifts from the astronomers who explore the universe, to the biologists who explore creation here, to the doctors who save our lives through vaccinations & diagnosis…
This is a true story from The New York Times' "Metropolitan Diary" [July 6, 2015]:
A few minutes after eating lunch one day at a Chelsea restaurant, a man suddenly felt feverish and nauseous. Fearing food poisoning and not wanting to be sick on the subway, he hailed a cab to head for home.
A yellow cab pulled over and the man got in. He immediately called his fiancée to let her know what was going on. After he finished the call, the cab driver, who overheard the conversation, asked, "Excuse me, but what are your symptoms?" Realizing the man's stunned look, the driver reassured him, "Don't worry. I'm a doctor."
The driver explained that he was a physician in his native Pakistan; he was driving a taxi while awaiting his United States residency papers. The doctor-cum-cabbie listened to the man's symptoms, asked the usual doctor-patient questions, and diagnosed gastroenteritis (stomach flu), saving the man a visit to a clinic or ER. It was the first time the New Yorker used the "30 percent tip" option when paying the fare.
A doctor's skill and compassion comes to the fore in a moment of healing. The encounter between the two is a moment of transfiguration. For the Spirit of God dwelling within us enables us to realize our own potential for generosity, compassion and gratitude - and, in the light of Christ's transfiguration, to recognize that same goodness in others.
Like the sick passenger who comes to realize the skill of the physician whose profession is hidden because of legal technicalities, we are challenged as disciples of Jesus not to let fear or doubt repress our own abilities and opportunities to transform hearts and souls in the creation within us and around us. May we be faithful witness to God’s glory and stewards of God’s gifts. Amen.