The evolving cosmos.There were a lot of upset people when Pope Francis declared that we live in a convergent universe where evolution is the way of life. Only those with a static view of the world and the human being were aghast at the declaration of Pope Francis. We inhabit a convergent universe where change is integral to life. In this evolving cosmos, all life unfolds towards greater complexity. The direction of this cosmic unfolding is towards greater unity—simple, isolated structures give way to more complex relationships which become more and more conscious. Nothing is static and all things are interrelated and tend towards a center.
By “convergent universe” here is meant that all things in the cosmos are impelled by an inner dynamism to become more complex and more conscious in the process of evolution. This convergent universe is an open system where new things can happen; it is a single, organic, evolutionary flowing. This process began with the Big Bang and will continue until the end of time through the continuous convergence of contingency, selection and self-organization. This is the way God chose to create the universe and everything in it. It is in this dynamic context that we have to understand what a human being is.
This convergent reality, this dynamic cosmos, requires a new way of understanding the world. This is what the Parable of the Talents in the Gospel this Sunday seeks to teach. “Talents” in current usage usually mean a person’s natural abilities. Closer to the intent of the parable, however, talents symbolize the giftedness bestowed by God on each person who has been graced with life that grows and develops.
The parable teaches us that in a convergent universe, the ultimate goal of life does not consist of catering only to one’s own ego and desires or amassing material things, but of becoming all that one can be. In an evolving universe, the real goal is “becoming” – each one becoming the best, most competent and successful person he or she can possibly be.
The Christian tradition has always maintained that we should grow in our spiritual life. St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castles and St. John of the Cross’ The Ascent to Mt. Carmel are indicative of this way of thinking. Our forefathers also thought that we grow in our humanity—Madali maging tao, mahirap magpakatao. Our life is a constant struggle to grow in our humanity because we are frail human beings—sapagka’t tayo’y tao lamang.
Jean Vanier, who spent his life ministering to people with disabilities, says that life’s great existential pull is the struggle to become human, which is a long and sometimes painful process. Becoming human “involves a growth to freedom, an opening of our hearts to others, no longer hiding behind masks or behind the walls of fear and prejudice. It means discovering our common humanity.”
What kind of person should one strive to become in the light of the human yearning for wholeness? In a darkened world, what values should we embrace to live a life of hope and anticipation? To cope with the challenges confronting the planet at present, what kind of understanding of what it means to become human should we propose and act on?
In an evolving universe, we have to accept the radical uncertainty of the future yet meet the challenges that an era of irresponsible human domination of the planet have placed before us—the unjust distribution of the planet’s resources, war and terror, and the unsustainable policies of our political and economic systems. Integral human growth means learning more meaningful and satisfying ways to live, a greater network of social relationships, and leaving a legacy that makes the world a better place than when one became conscious of inhabiting it.
Karl Rahner, one of the preeminent theologians of the 20th century, understood the human person as the being that is already beyond. The background for this reflection on humanity is a universe in process, an evolving cosmos, where the lower ascends to the higher. In the human being, evolution becomes conscious of itself. We are always already beyond and we become ourselves only by becoming more than ourselves. The more abundant life that Christ came to bring (Jn.10:10) is the capability to live life to its fullness in this evolving world and to develop fully as a human being.
With their transcendence, according to Rahner, human beings question every aspect of reality, including themselves. God is implicitly present in their questioning as the horizon of their interrogation. They know the finite only because they implicitly know the Infinite as the condition of possibility. In the act of knowing objects in the world, they know themselves and God, hence all theological statements are anthropological statements. The question of God and the question of the human being are two banks of the same river.
Since human freedom is a transcendental dynamism toward the Infinite, no finite object is ever able to fill up the dynamism that a human being is. In recognizing the limits of finite goods, human beings reach out to God, the absolute value, in the restlessness of their heart. Thus human beings are in the depths of their humanity oriented towards ultimate value. Without this orientation to the Infinite, human beings cannot grasp their life as a totality of becoming.
Losing the self to find it
Every person bears the mystery of God within. The first task of every creature is to complete and perfect this icon of the divine within. Every time we become our true selves, we reclaim identity and integrity, and new life can grow within, between and around us.
We project ourselves into the future, dream and make plans because of the innate drive towards self-determination, wholeness and fulfillment. We are carried away by the movement towards what we are not yet. This is the reason why most human beings can hardly tolerate boredom. They are always driven by a sense of purpose to constantly explore or create something new. They have to do something, surmount the limits necessary for growth in engaging the complexity of the world, and imagine what is not, or not yet, present to immediate experience. They become anxious in anticipation and the fear of what may happen.
To become all that we can be is a hard and painful task. In order to become all that they can be, Christians obey the mandate to carry the story of Jesus forward in history, and by doing that, to make his presence real. Without this sense of cosmic purpose, their possibilities become stifled. We grow in humanity as we assimilate the idea that change is essential to the human condition.
To proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God is to declare that the divinity of Jesus lays bare not so much the mystery of God as the majesty of what it is to become human.