Today, it is not so scandalous a thing to think of Jesus, the Son of God, the God-Become-Man, to be made of stardust. But in the early 20th century a French Jesuit named Pierre Teihard de Chardin said that very thing. It was such a scandal that the Vatican told him he could not publish it. That word “scandal” is in interesting one: it comes from the Greek word skandelon, which literally means a stumbling block, something that trips us up. Why was the notion that Jesus, and therefore we too, are made of the same stuff as the rest of the universe so difficult? Because in those days the idea that stars could be hundreds of millions of years old, or that dinosaur fossils could pre-date humans on earth was held to be un-biblical.
In a literal reading of the Bible, the universe is only about 6,000 years old. Adam and Eve are our literal first-parents. People, the professionals especially, did not read the Book of Genesis in the best sense of mythos, of story-telling. But when notions of evolution were started to be formulated, the idea that humans could be descended as one bi-pedal species of many descended from apes, was a scandal indeed. Anyone—certainly any church-man—who promoted the idea was labeled a Modernist and condemned. His or her (there were a few women, like Edith Stein) books were banned, and whose ideas were labeled as dangerous.
Science in the modern era has had a difficult time with the Church. Before the fifteenth century, faith and reason were held together as one thing because all reason was taught though the lens of faith. Modern philosophers would come along and challenge that. The problem in asking questions, is that once they are asked, they cannot be unasked. And, as in any technical field of study—theology being one of them—people are affected by those questions and make some effort to come up with an answer.
Today we stand on the shoulders of all those great thinkers of the past who have moved the stone of reason up the hill of faith. I’m not saying that the Church was unreasonable, but people today, in this day of instant information, don’t realize how mind blowing some ideas were and still are. Today, we teach that faith cannot and should not contradict reason. This is not to say that we understand it all, or that we ever will. This is not to say that all the mystery, majesty, and miracles of the Church and the Bible can be “explained away” by some as of yet not discovered science. Yes, we do still believe in miracles. The biggest miracle of all is God becoming Man, born of a virgin, dying on a cross for our sins, resurrecting from the dead and becoming present to us in a real and tangible way in each and every Eucharist.
This Jesus, whom we call The Christ, becomes part of us, and we too have become his body. We, the Church, are the Body of Christ. We, too, are the stuff of stars. We have been given the great commission to be Jesus to the world in service. St. Theresa of Avila said, “Christ has no hands on earth but yours.” We have come full circle. God who is wholly-other became man so that we might become God. You too are Cosmic Christ. Is that a scandal? Perhaps it should be.