A few drops of water

The more we acquire the power to destroy our earth the more, happily, we acquire the ability to do something about it.  Just think how we would be if Covid 19 had crept up on us and we did not know what it was and how it had arisen! As it is, we do know and what is more we know how to prevent it. We have found, it seems, a vaccine. ‘Follow the science’ has become the wise counsel which has borne fruit and politicians who have ignored science for political gain have endangered the lives of their people.

So here we are in a scientific forum which tells us how we got into this and how we can get out of it. But scientists know the more they advance the more they become aware of their limits. ‘Getting out of it’ requires human cooperation and that cannot be engineered by scienists. Science is becoming a more humble discipline and is ever more open to a mystery beyond their ability to understand.

Here is a mysterious saying from St Hippolytus in the third century:

‘The boundless river that gladdens the City of God is washed by a few drops of water. The source without limits that engenders life for all mankind and is beyond all understanding is covered by the poor waters of this world’.

Hippolytus is referring to Baptism and more specifically to the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. John’s action, pouring ‘a few drops of water’ on the head of the Messiah, triggered the whole drama that soon unfolded in the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. ‘The whole world lies in the power of the Evil One’, but that is about to change. Something very small – ‘a few drops of water’ – is going to set off a process which over the years and centuries will transform humanity.

That little vaccine, contained in a few drops of water, has the power to comfort and protect all humanity and the connection between these drops of water and the waters of baptism is becoming ever more blurred. As science is losing its confidence it can solve all problems, even as it solves some, so religion is losing its confidence it can provide the answer to all human grief.

Since the days of Tertullian, a contemporary of Hippolytus, who famously asked ‘what has Athens to do with Jerusalem?’ meaning what has the city best known for philosophy and science to do with the city where Christianity was born, people have argued over the claims of reason and faith. We live in exciting times where this argument is being resolved. Science today is much more open than before to the deepest claims of faith. And faith, too, is much more aware of the necessity of science for the growth and perfection of the human person. And a few drops of water have bridged the gap.

10 January 2021          The Baptism of Jesus     Is 42:1-7       Acts 10:34-38             Mk 1:7-11

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