A Kingdom Rises from Our Klugedom

(For the audio version of this blog, please visit: http://brothersinchristcmf.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Mass-Blog-for-the-3rd-Sunday-in-Advent-2022.mp3)

Follow the news regularly and you can’t help but realize we live in an imperfect world. Imperfection, a new book by Telmo Pievani, professor of biology at the University of Padua, Italy, celebrates our imperfections, arguing that perfection is not only impossible, but that imperfection is built into nature. It explains evolution and natural selection. A professor of psychology who gave the book a rave review in the The Wall Street Journal added to the author’s analysis of humanity’s “unintelligent design” by noting that we are “shot through with deficiencies that wouldn’t earn even a passing grade for a novice bioengineer, never mind an omniscient, omnipotent deity.”

You might think this kind of scholarship could give ammunition to atheists debunking our preparations to celebrate the birth of a God made flesh who came to save humanity from itself. But the readings for this third Sunday in Advent offer a scriptural counterpoint from a prophet, a disciple, and from Jesus himself. Together they help us remember that God was foolish enough to establish His kingdom amidst our imperfection. Indeed, we worship a God whose foolishness is wiser than any of us—including professors of biology and psychology. It is through our imperfections that He reveals the truth of our divine inheritance—if we are brave enough to claim it.

In Sunday’s gospel reading (Mt 11:2-11), even John the Baptist—the one Jesus acknowledges paved the way for his earthly mission—started exhibiting a doubt that Jesus uses to illustrate the human imperfection from which he came to deliver us. “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?,” John wonders.

Jesus answers John with a backhanded compliment that also celebrates the perfect hearts of the imperfect inhabitants of his kingdom:

“Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

God uses our self-imposed imperfections to help us appreciate the coming Advent of perfection. Long before John’s and Jesus’s arrival, Isaiah gave humanity the courage to believe we will rise above the imperfections our scholars use to criticize God and his “unintelligent design” (Is 35:1-6a, 10).

Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.

In the perfect world our scholars say a perfect God should have designed for us, would we then, in our perfection, ever need to exhibit any of the virtues perfectly designed to help us survive THIS imperfect world? To refresh our imperfect memories, those are wisdom, justice, courage and self-control.  For those virtues, as Sunday’s reading from the book of James tells us (Jas 5:7-10), we have only to look to the least in God’s Kingdom who nevertheless had the courage to design-out judgment from their own souls and replace it with infectious hope:

Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged. Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates. Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

The scholars citing the unintelligence of God’s intelligent design tend to ignore the spirit that animates people to try rising above our kluges. A kluge is a compromise to our lost perfection. These kluges have helped mankind survive on this world through many centuries. These professors explain that such workarounds are “often clumsy, inelegant, inefficient, but do the job nonetheless.” As someone who aspires to be among the least in God’s Kingdom, I’m trying to resemble that remark.

–Tom Andel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *