We cannot even get near understanding the whole creative-sustaining process. Of our very nature, it is all way beyond us.
You won’t like this essay, but I feel I have to be honest both to you and to me, hoping that it misses some important point you spot and I don’t, and I can be dismissed as some sort of idiot, and your life continues in peace.
Young couples fall in ecstatic love with one another, so powerfully that it is not rare for such couples to enter a deliriously happy suicide pact, and carry it through. More often the ecstasy wears off little by little, and they settle for an amicable mid-life.
And even more often (I go by published statistics) the couple break up. What can such people tell themselves in answer to our fundamental question What’s it all about??Many people I know talk comfortably about a loving God and God’s plans being implemented by the way our life unfolds. Now the reality of that unfolding is very often painful both physically and in other ways. We’re talking life experience here.
Am I to believe that all that suffering is willed by a loving God? And indeed we go into rapturous expressions of such love in our vocal prayers and our music. Is this sincere? Or wishful thinking?
As I write, Covid is taking its toll – yesterday a friend of mine died of it.
Thousands others could have typed that sentence just as honestly. Ukraine is in extreme pain at the moment, and I think of the thousands of terrified mothers and daddies wondering what’s going to happen to their children. What do they say in their prayer lives?
Right now I baulk at quoting familiar hymns and prayers, they sound so hypocritical in the context of so many dreadful realities happening all round us.
Yesterday an Irish friend wrote to me to ask if it were true that our poor children in India sell their lungs and kidneys to doctors for money to buy food with. I checked. It is. A world ruled by God’s love? Someone has a sick sense of humour. A sick sense of love.
What do I say about all sorts of institutions for people care – hospitals, hospices, orphanages, Homes for the Dying, for the incurable, for the mentally destroyed, for people whose only life is morphine, for prisoners in jails where hate rules and terror is the abiding emotion, for POW camps run by sadists, and set-ups by child abusers. God – ? I cannot even finish a sentence.
An area of knowing
Let’s think straight. All over the world women and men have knowingly offered up their lived lives to the God they revere – who may or may not be the one I pray to.
No one knows who the other’s God is, whether the names are the same or not. (Just ask any of your religious leaders.)What does that mean? It means that each of us has a powerful awareness that there is in fact that whom most call God, albeit with various alternative titles, and whom they sense deep inside is the moving force behind all existence.
And here is where we enter the field variously called faith or conviction or persuasion or even experience: there is an area of knowing that the whole of creation means something, and that it is ultimately in some sort of control by its creator.
At this point you are objecting that hey, that’s all rather obscure: but the painful places you just described are real and terrible. Are you hypnotising yourself? No. I am being ruthlessly honest. We cannot even get near understanding the whole creative-sustaining process. Of our very nature, it is all way beyond us.
But: deep within us there is an awareness that somehow, some real how, the package makes sense. Not only that, but that our involvement with it and in it makes even more sense the more we involve ourselves in helping improve it.
There is a core person in you and me that knows, my work for people who could do with my help makes real sense – and that my trust in my version of God enriches that experience. It is real.
Cool it, cool it. How do I know? I can’t answer that question. I just know. I’ve mentioned in an earlier reflection that I encountered Love only in 2019, when I was 81 years of age.
Up to then it was all a meaningless perfunctory day-by-day existence for me, despite my being a professional and committed religious. It just happened. Love in the three months in the middle of that year took over my life in a hundred different ways. It still does.
Hey, that’s a cool way out of a discussion! What about all that suffering? I can only say, dear brave reader, that I do all I can to help lessen it wherever I can, and that I have a deep sense within me that this really makes sense. God-sense.
I’ve been through suicide, God help me, but I was saved, and that too contributes to my powerful inner awareness that this God is real, is loving, is in fact Love. Including you and the dog and the tree and all. Everything is love. God bless.
Brendan MacCarthaigh is a Christian Brother from Dublin working in India for over 50 years, mostly in Value Education with senior classes and teachers.
With thanks to Brendan MacCarthaigh and La Croix International, where this article originally appeared.