We do mission work in Yucatan. Among the many attractions of that Mexican state is the Chicxulub Crater, formed some 66 million years ago when an asteroid crashed into earth, leaving a hole 12 miles deep and over 90 miles wide.
The collision caused tsunamis, wildfires and a sulfur haze that blocked the sun. The Chicxulub event caused massive extinctions, including the reptilian reign of the dinosaur.
It was cataclysmic, but important. Only when the dinosaurs were gone did mammals have a chance to thrive and evolve, initiating the lineage that led to homo sapiens. Without Chicxulub, we wouldn’t be here.
Consider the moon. It influences our oceans, our climate, even our orbit. It inspires poetry, encourages romance, and calms the troubled heart.
But Earth had no moon until a smaller planet, Theia, slammed it. The impact vaporized the earth’s crust. The gasses gathered around what was left of Theia, eventually forming the night light that comforts and guides.
When the Belgium priest Georges Lemaitre articulated the Big Bang Theory in 1927, he saw convulsive upheaval at the core of our cosmic birth.
He postulated a point of singularity, a single primordial point, that exploded nearly 14 billion years ago. It happened with unimaginable force and inconceivable heat. It is still reverberating throughout the universe today.
In the smallest fraction of a second, space and time were formed. The embryonic particles of the universe turned into atoms, and atoms into molecules, and molecules into elements.
Far from destroying matter, this explosion created it.
Today, from supernovas to the seed germinating in the ground, upheaval and impermanence, calamity and change are still inescapable.
No life is immune to this. We all have chapters in our stories when something cataclysmic happened, something that upended our life or threatened to destroy it.
We have our deaths and disabilities, our sicknesses and suicides, our grave faults and grievous failures.
We’ve had our loves that disappoint, and we have disheartened those who love us. Some of it might have been avoided, but much of it could not.
The lesson of Chicxulub, Theia and the Big Bang is that while the world can seem unbearably harsh, it is always incredibly resilient and creative. We can make it through the hard times and even find growth in them.
Fr. Lemaitre was fond of referencing Isaiah’s hidden God, “hidden even in the beginnings of the universe.”
In almost 14 billion years, that’s the only thing that hasn’t changed.