A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Thinking We Know

Posted on: July 17, 2014

I’ve been watching episodes of The Universe on H2 recently. Every episode, I learn something new—and I learn how much our ideas about space have changed over time.

How many times in history have people thought they knew the whole truth? We know now that the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth, that the key to treating illness doesn’t lie in balancing humours, that other cultures aren’t unsophisticated just because they’re different from our own. But we continue to learn new things about species we thought were extinct, about the makeup of planets in our solar system, about the social structures of ancient civilizations.

I’m reminded of something one of my high school teachers liked to say: “Those who think they know everything don’t know enough to know how little they know.”

We have an inkling of just how little we know about “life as we know it.” Reading through chapters 38 to 41 of the book of Job, we can see that we still don’t know how, and especially why, many things came to be.

The same is true of our knowledge of God and his ways: it’s a drop in the bucket of what there is to know.

We can learn about God by studying the Bible, the Catechism, and the writings of Church fathers and doctors and saints; by listening to homilies; and by spending time in prayer. But as we read in Isaiah 55:8-9*, our human understanding will never be able to grasp all that there is to know about the Lord:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

We may believe that we really know God. But as the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.”

We may convince ourselves that nothing will get in the way of our plans. But we’re only fooling ourselves. As Proverbs 21:30 reminds us, “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel, can avail against the LORD.”

I pray that, just as we spend time and effort learning more about the universe, we would devote time and effort to learning more about God and his ways.

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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