After a decade-long journey the European Rosetta spacecraft has landed on a comet. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has travelled 3 billion miles in nearly nine years to photograph the surface of Pluto. The Kepler telescope has revealed the existence of ‘Goldilocks’ planets – not too hot and not too cold – 117 light-years away.
Most fascinating for me is not the potential for intelligent life elsewhere but the vast scale of the Universe. The known Universe may be one of billions of parallel Universes. Some of these may have already ceased to exist. Others may still be born.
The words of Sacred Scripture were written and originally read by those who believed that the Earth was the centre of the Universe. For them the Sun was hardly more than a satellite. But the Lord God Creator of the compact Medieval Universe also reigns over the multiple galaxies revealed by contemporary space exploration.
My faith is strengthened by these advances. Human life on planet Earth may be 200,000 years old, a blip in the life of the Universe. The light of stars detected by the Kepler telescope was already on its way towards us in the lifetime of Jesus.
The Incarnation makes as much sense in our backwater of the Milky Way as it does in Galilee, the backwater of the Roman Empire. Billions of years passed before my own birth. Billions more may pass after my death. Yet Christ’s death and resurrection give my life significance. The words of Jesus remain as hard-hitting today as they were 2,000 years ago: ‘Unless a wheat grain falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it reveals a rich harvest.'