Every culture and religion have their own creation story – a story that answers the big questions such as: Where have we come from? How did the universe begin? What is our place in it? What will happen when we die? Why is there suffering in the world?
For most of the past 2000 years or so, the story that we, from the Judeo-Christian tradition, adhered to is found in the book of Genesis. There we have the story of how God created the world in 6 days. God created man and woman and ensconced them in Paradise. However, they rebelled and were consequently expelled from Paradise and were condemned to live a life of suffering thereafter. This story underpins the theology of original sin and the fall and salvation through the life death and resurrection of Jesus.
Obviously, it’s a story that is not based on fact but was a metaphorical, poetical way of explaining the great mysteries of life. If taken literally it is not credible nor is it relevant to most people. Not only is it no longer relevant but it is a story that has led to most of the ills we are facing on our planet today.
Fourteen years ago, at the 2008 General Chapter we were introduced to the New Story of the Universe and we committed ourselves to begin to view everything – our world view, theology, living of the vows etc through the lens of the New Story. The new story of the universe is based on scientific discoveries that have been made over the past 200 years. The new story tells us a different origin story, one that can be accepted by all humans whatever their religion or nationality. It tells us that the universe came into being in a primeval fireball 14 billion years ago. Scientists know this because the cosmic radiation from that original fireball can still be detected. We are now realizing that our universe is a single immense energy event that began as a tiny speck, that has unfolded over time to become galaxies and stars, palms and pelicans, the music of Bach, and each of us alive today. The universe is not simply a place but a story—a story in which we are immersed, to which we belong, and out of which we arose.
This story has the power to awaken us more deeply to who we are and to answer some of the deep questions we ask ourselves. For just as the Milky Way is the universe in the form of a galaxy, and an orchid is the universe in the form of a flower, we are the universe in the form of a human. And every time we are drawn to look up into the night sky and reflect on the awesome beauty of the universe, we are actually the universe reflecting on itself.
BUT WHY IS THE NEW STORY IMPORTANT FOR US?
• The New Story of our cosmic origins helps us understand who we are, (earthlings) how we came to be as well as how we, as conscious beings, might live differently on our small planet, undoing the damage that we have caused by living the old story of human superiority and dominance.
• The New Story enables us to form an understanding of God that is more congruent with the knowledge that we have today – a God who is infinitely greater, more awe-inspiring than the small god of the gaps or the distant patriarchal god who rules from afar.
• The New Story impels us to rethink our theology, spirituality, Scripture, prayer, and Church Teaching in the light of all that we know to be true now. The Old story – the account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it – is no longer adequate. It sustained us for a long time but we can no longer base our faith life on it. We must seek to update and inform ourselves by reflecting together on our faith.
• The New Story invites us to assume our prophetic role as religious in the Church and in society. Pope Francis writes: “Religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a pro-phetic way. This is the priority that is needed right now: to be prophets who witness to how Jesus lived on this earth…a religious must never abandon prophecy. Prophets receive from God the ability to scrutinize the times in which they live and to interpret events: they are like sentinels who keep watch in the night and sense the coming of the dawn. Prophets know God and they know the men and women who are their brothers and sisters….” Pope Francis in his Apostolic Letter to All Consecrated Peo-ple for the Year of the Consecrated Life, Nov 21, 2014.
• The New Story is all about communion. It reminds us that we are all ONE having come from the same great flaring forth 14 billion years ago. We are reminded of how relevant our charism is and are challenged to live it.
• Can you suggest any other reasons why the New Story is important for us?