What I Saw Beyond the Clouds

by | Jan 20, 2023

Every summer, I teach an intensive course at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. During that time, I make a forty-minute drive into Detroit every day. I teach a three-hour class in the morning and a two-hour class in the afternoon. Sometimes, my prayer time is a little shortened during those days because I leave early in the morning, so I continue my prayer time in the car. I won’t turn the radio on; I’ll just be with the Lord. I might pray out loud a little bit, I might rejoice a little bit, or I might just be quiet.

When I was driving one morning this past summer, I was struck by the clouds. Do you know how sometimes the cloud formations are so beautiful and spectacular, with colors, shapes, heights, depths, and lights behind them? I was thanking the Lord for the beauty of the earth and the beauty of the sky, when I recalled some of the new photos coming in from the James Webb Telescope. It’s even more powerful than the Hubble Telescope, and they’ve released the first images that have come back from it. They are fabulous! They capture the incredible scope of the universe. We don’t even know how far it goes, and it is still going. Things are being born, things are dying, and things are collapsing. It’s hard to fathom with our human minds—the measurements of energy, force, mass, speed, and light. There’s a huge light show going on, a huge firework show going on! It’s amazing!

Then, I was thinking about God, who created all this and sustains it. If the measurements were just a little bit off, we wouldn’t be alive here. We wouldn’t have a habitat that human beings could live in. Everything’s at just the right angle from the sun. Everything’s spinning in just the right way. The Earth is tilted in just the right way. Everything is miraculously ordered for human life to exist.

How could this little tiny speck in this absolutely unfathomably huge universe have the attention of God? How could little creatures on this planet have the attention of God—not only have the attention of God but be able to have anything to do with Him or be able to fathom Him? Who can fathom God? Who can fathom the one who created the universe? Who can fathom this intelligence, this power, this immensity, this might?

Then I thought, a greater manifestation of God’s power, might, and divinity is Jesus—the Word of God taking on human nature. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14). Those who believe in Him will not perish like the passing things of this world will perish, and perhaps even like the universe itself will perish (Jn 3:16). We’ll have eternal life.

This mighty God took on human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary—a woman totally opened to God, able to receive Him, and willing to offer her humanity to God so that the Word could become flesh and dwell among us. Just fathom what it means that the Word became flesh, that we now have Jesus!

Amazingly, Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the father” (Jn 14:9). If you hear what I’m saying to you, you’re hearing what the Father is saying to you. This mighty God, who keeps the galaxies spinning and creating and declaring his glory, is now reliably, mercifully, and miraculously speaking to us in words we can understand that are absolutely true and absolutely vital!

We need to treasure Jesus. He’s the treasure buried in the field that is worth selling everything to have (Mt 13:44). He’s God speaking to us, rescuing us from the death that came into creation. He’s the one who loves us and knows what it’s like to be a human being. He’s come to take us back to the Father’s house—where there is a place for us. Jesus promised, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (Jn 14:2) He said there are many places for those who want to be with Him, listen to Him, obey Him, and follow Him. He said if we will just take hold of Him and eat his body and drink his blood in the sacraments, if we would just be faithful to Him until the end, despite temptation, suffering, and pain, we will experience his glory.

One day, I was talking to a Carmelite hermitess, Mother Immaculata, in a hermitage not too far out of Steubenville, Ohio. She’s a very holy woman who has written some wonderful things not widely available. One day, she said, “I want to show you a picture of the beatific vision. I want to show you a picture of God.” She held up an image of Jesus as a small child, with his arms outstretched, surrounded by clouds. Jesus was at his most vulnerable in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Jesus was a little child. Jesus was a man kneeling at the feet of his creatures, cleansing them, washing them, loving them, and sacrificing for them. This mighty God begs us to be saved and to pass from mortality to immortality. This mighty God kneels at our feet and cleanses us with his Word, his Spirit, and his sacraments.

We may not know how big the universe is, or whether there is intelligent life on other planets, but we know one thing for certain: the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Now at the right hand of the Father, He’s there, bodily. We know that Mary has already gone ahead of us; she’s there, bodily. There’s a place for us bodily human beings to be cleansed of the death that came into our souls through sin. We can experience the forgiveness of sin through the sacrifice of Jesus the Incarnation that led to the cross and to Him taking upon Himself all the ugliness, hatred, foolishness, and evil of the world. He opened a door for us to get through to get healed of it, to get cured of it, and to share with Him in the glory of his risen body. So whatever else is happening in the universe, we know what is happening now for us.

This is from Revelation Chapter 21:2-3: “I also saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a great voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them.’” That’s permanent. The Incarnation is permanent, the body of Christ is permanent, and our relationship with the Lord our Redeemer is permanent, if we stay faithful to the end, if we love Him, if we aren’t afraid to come to Him, if we are willing to become like little children so we can enter the kingdom of God.

So, you never know what’s going to happen when you look up at the clouds. You never know what’s going to happen when you’re driving a car or praying. You never know what the Lord’s going to show you because He’s so merciful through his Holy Spirit.

This article is abridged from a YouTube video that can be watched here. It also appeared in Renewal Ministries’ January 2023 newsletter.

Image Credit: Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScl.

About the Author

<a href="https://www.renewalministries.net/author/martinnick/" target="_self">Ralph Martin</a>

Ralph Martin

Ralph Martin is president of Renewal Ministries. He also hosts The Choices We Face, a widely viewed weekly Catholic television and radio program distributed throughout the world. Ralph holds a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome and is a professor and the director of Graduate Theology Programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Detroit. He was named by Pope Benedict XVI as a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization and was also appointed as a “peritus” to the Synod on the New Evangelization. Ralph is the author of a number of books, the most recent of which are A Church in Crisis: Pathways ForwardThe Fulfillment of All DesireThe Urgency of the New Evangelization, and Will Many Be Saved? He and his wife Anne have six children and nineteen grandchildren and reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

1 Comment

  1. Joseph Boroden

    Since I was a child, astronomy facinated me. Almost everytime I look at the night sky I have the same thoughts as Ralph. God’s universe is so immense and we are so tiny yet here we are, God’s children, whom he loves so much he suffered and died on the cross for our sins. Our God is an awesome God!

    The Webb telescope pictures are amazing! Also met Ralph at a conference about 20-25 years ago. Blessings to your ministry!


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