Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader?
Archdiocese of Washington: Year of Faith series
Dominican Brothers of the Province of St. Joseph
No sooner had God led Moses and the Israelites out of Egypt and slavery, did they forsake Him and pursue idols. Moses told the people to prepare themselves to worship the Lord, and he himself went up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments. Meanwhile, the people pestered Aaron the high priest and had him melt down their gold and form it into a golden calf.
Aaron proclaimed to the people, “Tomorrow is a feast of the Lord!” (Ex 32:5). And they proclaimed, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!” (Ex 32:4).
The God who created them and liberated them was hardly enough for them. They also wanted a God they could control. They rejected Him, and refashioned Him in their own image and likeness.
Today’s “Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader?” question points to the fact that God is “transcendent.” To say that God is transcendent is to say He is beyond creation – that means He exists and acts in a way far above, and far superior to earthly, and creaturely existence.
St. Paul preached this to the Greeks– notorious worshipers of idols– in the Areopagus. “We ought not to think that the divinity is like an image fashioned from gold, silver, or stone by human art and imagination,” he says (Acts 17:29).
“The God who made the world and all that is in it,” St. Paul says, “does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything” (Acts 17:24-25). “Rather,” St. Paul says, “it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25).
We do not relate to God as equals. We depend completely on Him. He doesn’t depend at all on us. The Greek gods are just like us, but bigger and stronger. God is not on a scale of comparison with us.
If God is truly beyond creation, does this make Him too distant from us? St. Paul didn’t think so. He continues to say that, “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 1:28). St. Paul thinks that God is very close to us. And this can only be because God and creation aren’t equals. God existed apart from creation. God isn’t part of creation. God doesn’t depend on it. But the reverse is true. Creation depends on God. It exists because it receives being from Him at every moment. And it receives being and existence from Him in the inmost and deepest part of itself. St. Augustine says that God “is higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self” (CCC 300).
It is also why this Creator God can become the Incarnate God. The eternal Word of God became man from the Virgin Mary almost two thousand years ago. He has a complete human nature, both body and soul. This is the God whom we await this Advent.
Join us on December 13th for our next “Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader?” post.
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