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January 31, 2021 Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I recently heard this story:

An atheist once challenged me to prove to him that God could exist. So I took out my cell phone I put it on the table and I asked him if my Phone was moving. He said “no”. So in order for my phone to move out of state of potential to actual motion a force has to be applied to the phone.

I said: Are there objects in the Universe that are moving? Of course there are. And I said: just like the phone there has to be a force that causes all objects to move. I said: what is that force? He said: the Big Bang. I said: OK! Then what caused the Big Bang? He had no answer.

I said: well let’s take the phone down to the Amazon basin in South America and drop the phone on the jungle floor, and a group of indigenous people find the phone, pick it up. They never seen or experienced anything like this technology before. Would they think that this phone created itself? No, of course not. They would think that an alien or a God or another human being created the phone because things don’t create themselves.  Then I asked him to tell me something that exists that created itself. He had no answer.

Finally I said: When I bought my phone the battery was at 100% and as I took it off the charger and began to use the phone the battery begins to drain and appears to lose energy and move toward a state of equilibrium. Just as the Universe there was a Big Bang and you would expect that after 13.7 billion years the Universe will be losing energy just like the battery on the phone, but instead the universe continues to expand and there are billions and billions of pieces of visible matter in the universe. How is it that the Universe is not losing energy after such a long period of time? Again, he had no answer. I said: Now you have to apply the law of Ockham’s razor which says, if you have a series of competing hypotheses each with equally predictive outcomes, the one with the fewest assumptions is the one that is mostly correct. So, I gave you three assumptions and you did not give me a correct answer to even one of them.

And, I in my argument, did not even once use the word “God”, not even once.

So, now you must conclude from reason and logic alone that there is possibly a God. That’s at least possible. Now using those 3 examples were from Saint Thomas Aquinas. Those are three of five proofs of the existence of God. The argument from motion, cause and effect, and intelligent design.

An educated and a learned person was being ferried across a lake by a man who was not educated and did not go to college. During the crossing the learned man struck a conversation with the boatman. “Do you know anything about astronomy?” asked the learned man. “No” the boatman answered. “How about political science, economics?” The answer of the boatman was always no. “All I only know is that there is God whose words are powerful, I pray to Him and I know how to swim,” said the boatman.

“What a pitiful person,” lamented the learned man. “Education is half of life.” Why would I believe in God when I can explain everything?” he continued. The boatman just listened and kept quiet.

Soon, a squall came up and disaster was imminent. “Pray to God” the boatman said to the learned man. “No! I don’t need it,” said the learned man. “ Do you know how to swim?” asked the boatman. “No” answered the learned man. “If you do not know how to swim or pray, then you will lose your whole life.”

As it turned out, the boat capsized and the learned man despite his knowledge, drowned. As for the boatman, he is now waiting to ferry across the river another learned man who does not know how to swim and pray.

In today’s Gospel we read that Jesus made a deep impression on the people because unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.

Why did Jesus make such an impact on his listeners? He appeared to speak from within from the heart, as we often say. He spoke as someone who had experienced what he talked about, and there is no authority like the authority of someone who has lived what they are saying. The authority of Jesus comes from himself. He possesses the fullness of authority because He is God. The unclean spirit in the Gospel knew this: “What have you to do with us Jesus of Nazareth? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!”
As soon as he began to teach, the people recognized at once that there was a freshness and transparency about what he said, unlike the rabbis of the day. Rather than learning from books, he gave lessons from the great school of life. We do know that he was well versed in the Jewish scriptures and attended the synagogue regularly, so he did speak from a foundation of knowledge. On many occasions, he tells us that he had not come to abolish the laws, but rather to fulfill them.
Yet he held no official position, he had no power by way of a formal office. This may have been helpful in drawing people to listen to Him. He spoke with authority and he had the freedom to say it, as it is. In fact, we know at that time in Israel, none of the scribes would dare to voice their own opinion, and they frowned on anyone who did. No disagreement with them was tolerated.

Ironically, the true test of a person’s faithfulness to God is how they respond to God in Jesus. And how they use their logic and reason, as I talked about in the first story.

These so-called faithful followers of God failed miserably in this test because they rejected Jesus and refused to use their logic and reason.
We must stay very close to Jesus, learn from him, and experience his compassion and love. This is what motivates his mission – LOVE – the very center and nature of God.

It was deliberate, that Jesus didn’t cast out the evil of malice and deception that was in the hearts of his opponents, who lied and deceived in order to wrongly accuse him of sedition and have him crucified. They were too willful. They were deliberately and stubbornly cooperating with evil and choosing to oppose Jesus. He had to die and rise again in order to break their power.
We are called by Christ to cast out all that is destructive, hate-filled, deceptive, unjust and unloving in our lives and hearts. We do it by prayer like the boatman from our story, and by reflection and intellectual logic and reason as did St. Thomas Aquinas, and by staying close to the Lord. We must not allow ourselves to be distracted from God’s Kingdom and the values of the gospel. What really counts is listening to what God wants of us here and now.
Jesus was able to teach with conviction because he was God. He knew that his authority came from his Father. He had nothing to fear he was the Truth and that was clear to all who heard him with open hearts and minds. He possessed an authority unequaled by anyone else. Every Christian should use the example of Christ as their authority and conviction with which to speak and act, the kind that comes from prayer and logic.

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