February 7, 2011 - Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary

A lot has been made of how the days in our first reading can be thought of representationally. There are some who say simply that each day could stand for however long God wanted it to be. There once was an evangelical, who was a physicist, who tried to integrate Einstein’s idea of relative time into this description. Of course, this sort of talk will never satisfy everybody. Some want to defend the literal interpretation: God spent six days, 24 hours each, creating the universe. On the other side are those who would say that no matter how the time factor is understood, it is clearly wrong that fruit was created before the sun.

The story is obviously symbolic, for reasons other than what have been listed above, from the other side of things, so to speak. We know that God did not really create the world in six days and rest on the seventh because God does not work like that. God is not like us. He is one, simple, not complex. He has never done two things, from all eternity he has done one thing, but in that one thing is everything that he ever did.

It is very difficult for us to imagine God outside of time. We say that he is outside of time, but then we speak of him as if he were inside of time: “first he did this; later he did that,” but this is wrong since outside of time there is neither “first” nor “later”. God simply exists, and, as part of that existence, he acts with one singular act. We live in time and we see that one action as multiple because we see the effects of that one action spread throughout time.

A little philosophy and theology today, but these are important so that we can understand the utter uselessness of arguing with people about whether creation really took six days or six billion years. One of those is correct from our perspective, if we had time machines and could somehow go and watch the creation of the world. What is essential for our faith, though, is the first verse of our reading, the first verse of the whole Bible: “God created the heavens and the earth.” An attempt to describe how he did this can be prayerful and poetic, but we should not imagine that it is accurate, as if we could comprehend God.