It is a joy to be gathered here today in Guildhall for an address by Cardinal Suenens. Nine learned judges from five major religious faiths have awarded to Cardinal Suenens the 1976 Prize for Progress in Religion because of his unique interpretation of New Pentecostal experiences recently occurring in thousands of Roman Catholic churches worldwide.
In addition to those whose names appear on the programme, it is also a joy to have with us today His Grace the Archbishop Athenagoras of Thyateira, representing His All Holiness Demetrios, one of the judges; Mr. Henri Perdieus of the Belgian Embassy representing Her Majesty Fabiola, Queen of the Belgians; Mr. Edmund de Rothschild, a judge.
We are grateful to His Royal Highness Prince Philip for presenting the fourth annual Prize for Progress in Religion to Cardinal Suenens yesterday at Buckingham Palace, and to Mrs. Thatcher for taking the chair at this public ceremony today.
There is a wide variety among those receiving this award in earlier years; but each has done something new and unique which widens or deepens Man’s love of God or Man’s understanding of God.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta has provided a new understanding of the word ‘love’. Brother Roger, founder of the Taizé Community in France, in revitalizing religion among young people of all denominations and confessions. Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, former President of India, made a unique breakthrough in religion and philosophy’ and between Eastern and Western religions.
Purpose of Prize
This award programme was created to help people see more clearly the wonderful progress now occurring in all major religions. God seems to be revealing himself more and more rapidly.
Astronomers say our galaxy called the Milky Way contains thousands of millions of stars and planets. Each is a little piece of God. Until recently, no one dreamed that each star is larger than the earth. Astronomers believe that the Universe contains more than five million other galaxies. Not only is God creating the vast universe but if God is infinite, then the Universe is not separate from God, but rather an outward manifestation of God Himself. If God is infinite, then nothing exists separate from God. Mankind has learned more about the Universe in this century than in the other 180 million centuries since God began His creation of the Universe.
Astronomers are beginning to develop a theology based on this knowledge. They are giving us a new understanding of the meaning of the words ‘infinite’ and ‘eternal’. Some day, possibly, the judges may award this annual Prize for Progress in Religion to an astronomer.
More than. half the natural scientists who ever lived are living today. Their increasing discoveries are in reality discoveries about God. Recent discoveries in nuclear physics cause some scientists to say that the earth is more accurately described not as a solid mass of particles, but rather a ‘wave pattern’ or ‘symphony of life’ or an ‘unfolding idea’. Things which are not seen may be more numerous and more awe-inspiring than things which are seen. When scientists stand in awe of the Creative Spirit of the Universe, they are very close to worship. Already, respected scientists are beginning to study the nature of religious experience. Some day, the judges may award this Prize to a scientist who discovers new concepts or new instruments which multiply Man’s ability to see the unseen, because each new discovery is only a little part of the infinite God.
If God is infinite, then God is all of us and we are tiny part of Him. Geneticists are now making multitudes of discoveries about how God ‘s creatures reproduce themselves. God is revealing Himself to geneticists, as well as to the astronomers. Probably soon, geneticists may build insects and humans with weird and wonderful shapes and abilities. The geneticists are created by God; and maybe this is a new step in God’s creation of His Universe whereby the slow process of evolution is speeded up. Some geneticists wonder if they are worthy tools in God’s hands, when they are given this new and awesome power to change life’s basic processes. Already some deep thinking is beginning about the philosophy and the theology of geneticists. Perhaps some day the judges may select a geneticist to receive this Award, as one of the persons who has done most to in-crease Man’s understanding of God.
Each of us should be deeply grateful that God allowed us to be born in this generation when the quantity of know-ledge is increasing and accelerating. Much evidence has been found that God’s ongoing creative process is accelerating. Even this acceleration seems to be accelerating. The accelerating discovery rate in natural sciences needs to be matched by Man’s spiritual progress and discovery. This could happen if religious organizations budgeted enough resources and brains towards spiritual research. If we humbly admit how little we know, perhaps we will become more diligent in searching and learning.
Maybe only part of your soul dwells in your body. Maybe your body is created as a schoolroom for your soul. Some Christians say that the reason you are on this earth is to become more Christlike and to help others become more Christlike. Maybe your marvellous brain is the connecting link between body and soul; but your brain is equipped to sense or store only a tiny fraction of the waves which pass through your body. Maybe when God said He made Man in God’s image, He meant that Man is not only created by God, but shares in some small way in the creative process. Each of us should be grateful that God is allowing us to help as little creators in His tremendous and expanding creation. Some say that He even allows us to participate in the training of our souls and to create our own individual heaven or hell here and now.
Greater humility is needed about our knowledge of God. He is infinite and we are very tiny and limited. No man may ever know even one per cent of the infinite creative Spirit. To learn more, first we must become humble and rid ourselves of the egotistical idea that we know it all about God already.
Humility teaches us not to despise any other child of God because he worships God in a different way. Differences are helpful because thereby each of us can learn a little more about God. Not only should we love each other, but also listen to each other. Surely, we can learn from one another. We need not fear to exchange ideas, because if your idea is truth, it will endure. The myriad forms of life on earth now show us that both variety and progress are part of God’s plan.
Let me conclude with the words of Cardinal Suenens when he was asked why he is a man of hope. CardinaI Suenens said:
Because I believe that God is born anew each morning; because I believe that He is creating the world at this very moment. He did not create it long ago in the past, then forget about it. It is happening now. ‘We must therefore be ready to expect the unexpected from God. The ways of Providence are by nature surprising. We are not prisoners of determinism nor of the sombre prognostications of sociologists. God is here, near us, unforeseeable and loving. I am a man of hope, not for human reasons nor from natural optimism, but because I believe the Holy Spirit is at work in the Church and in the world, even where His name remains unheard.