I was surprised to see Harold Camping at his usual place on television the other night. The rapture didn’t happen May 21st, he explained, because God wanted to alert the world that the end was going to come this October. A caller wondered if we could do anything about helping this world of ours, but Harold was quite firm that God was going to destroy it completely. It’s an open sewer, according to him. Nothing’s worth saving.
How different from the Christian vision of St. Irenaeus, the 3rd century bishop of Lyons, whose feast we celebrate June 28th. He condemned the gnostics– favorites of new age thinkers today– for their dismissal of creation as evil. The One God is the source of our created world and we know him through it, Irenaeus taught. We cannot know God if we depreciate or ignore the world God has made; it mirrors his glory.
“The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason God, who cannot be grasped, comprehended or seen, allows himself to be seen, comprehended and grasped by us, that he may give life to those who see and receive him… God is the source of all activity throughout creation. He cannot be seen or described in his own nature and in all his greatness by any of his creatures. Yet he is certainly not unknown.”
The Word of God has a twofold role, according to Irenaeus, revealing God in creation and finally coming in the flesh to complete this revelation in Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, except the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; he has revealed him.
“He revealed God to us and presented us to God. He safeguarded the invisibility of the Father to prevent us from treating God with contempt and to set before us a constant goal toward which to make progress. On the other hand, he revealed God to us and made him visible in many ways to prevent us from being totally separated from God and so cease to be.
“Life in us is the glory of God; in human life one can see the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation gives life to all who live upon the earth, much more does the manifestation of the Father through the Word give life to those who see God.”
Harold should read that wonderful story from the Book of Genesis we read yesterday at Mass about Abraham bargaining with God for the salvation of Sodom and Gomorrah. The world’s worth saving.