Celestial and Celestin proof of the divine

penny mulvey
A letter to Crosslight this month eloquently reminds us that human beings do not have all the answers. The letter writer tells us that as astronomers learn more about the complexity of the universe, the probability of a planet which enables intelligent life becomes infinitesimal, perhaps even suggesting a divine hand.

People of faith have known this for centuries. Throughout time, humanity of all colours and creeds has acknowledged some kind of divine being.

That knowledge hasn’t stopped humankind doing awful things to one another. Our history books are stories of the victors and the vanquished. Our present is no different.

The month of June has witnessed almost daily reporting of terrorist incidents in various parts of the globe, some committed by individuals purporting to represent Allah, another by a man wanting to kill Muslims.

History books are, however, also full of stories of people who have stood tall in the midst of hatred.

Nelson Mandela, unbroken despite 27 years of incarceration, emerged from Robben Island to be elected president of South Africa and institute a time of healing.

Corrie ten Boom who, with her family, hid Jews escaping the Gestapo in a secret room in their Netherlands home (recorded in her biography, The Hiding Place). When arrested and incarcerated by the Nazis, ten Boom ran Bible studies in the concentration camps in which she was held.

Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi, William Wilberforce, Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King Jr, Anne Frank…

Each of us has our own heroes, men and women who have demonstrated love and bravery in the midst of hatred.

Mine is Celestin. I met Celestin in Rwanda in 1997, three years after the genocide. His two sons had been butchered. His wife and twin daughters had fled to France and would not return. He had worked in a Red Cross camp in neighbouring Burundi serving both Tutsis and Hutus in the midst of the genocide, and continued to serve his people. His pain was evident. But so was his love.

Celestin is the embodiment of the risen Christ, broken on the cross, the scars still evident, risen to offer grace and forgiveness to the world.

Pain, brokenness, death are part of the human condition. Our faith is firmly embedded in the muck of life. However, each of us is called to respond, like Celestin and Corrie and Bishop Romero in love not hate. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13 “And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

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