My father would have been 100 years old today. He died when I was in my first parish. I have now lived my life longer without him than with him. Considering his generation from Poland and the Second World War, displacement, migration and other factors it is ‘lucky’ that I exist. I am not unique. Trawling any family tree and we appreciate the circumstances, the chance, the decisions taken that brought people together to have children – not just any children but children who had children who had children who had us – and many of us have children.
During this week I remembered the anniversary of my mother’s death. (Yes, the two dates are close together.) However Mum died 19 years after Dad. Considering both married ‘later in life’, they both lived more of their lives without each other than with each other. And yet they met and here I am (as are my brother and sister).
I am not feeling morbid. Maybe reflective. I said ‘lucky’ earlier and it sort of fits in that context – you understood what I meant – but perhaps you furrowed your brow a little because if your world view or universe contains a God or a divine power or an ultimate cause then the random, the fluke, the by-chance, the ‘lucky’ doesn’t seem to fit. Events have cause and effect, power and agency, and we might not understand such things but they exist. As the world increases its knowledge, encroaches on the unknown, it has been said that it ‘pushes’ God / superstition / previous knowledge back. In such a world God can be described as a God ‘of the gaps’ (in our knowledge).
No matter the growth of our knowledge, God and religion are not going away. The old questions are asked again – dressed differently at times – but often oscillating between God as the puppet master (pulling everyone’s strings, controlling everything) through to God as the watchmaker (who made the beginning, wound it up and set it running, and is now totally ‘hands off’). I know these are ‘old’ pictures of God. Maybe modern analogies align God with quantum physics, computers, or brain chemistry. However, at some point fail, the analogy doesn’t work completely or it can send us down a false track. If God is good or loving why …? If God is all powerful why …? Our brains and life experience can take us only so far!
I had no control over my parents meeting (or their parents meeting) and me being here. At a fundamental level my existence is a gift. I can affect how I live and the world and circumstances can affect how I live. But that I am a ‘gift’ and have received life and existence as a ‘gift’ is a good starting point in a search for meaning. I think what we call ‘blessing’ begins when those who gave the gift of life then seek its well being and so when parents love and care and look after their children that is a blessing gift to us. In this world, nothing is perfect – a truth we learn from early ages – and so we learn how to seek help and give help – in other words – how to live. And this can be all consuming – until we pause and reflect – who are we and what are we doing here?
In all the words whirling around, in all the searches for meaning, in a person’s personal reflections, along comes the story of Jesus and these words – especially from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – become strangely compelling. They draw us to them – to him – and we discover gifts – God’s love, life with God, and meaning and purpose in the world. And that’s a wonderful foundation on which to live each day – everything is actually a gift. Thank you. (And for me this week, ‘Thank you, Mum and Dad.) GS