This summer, the specter of death contrasted sharply with the vibrant greens of new life, and the interface of the two opened new spaces for understanding and growth. Questions were raised as well: why are we here? What are we doing? What is our purpose? Why do people hurt each other so much? What is going on? Humbly grasping for answers, or somewhat adequate responses or relevant conjecture, I realized that there is a stark simplicity to life and to purpose: to love and be loved. It was not an insight of my own; it came from an obituary, a testimony to a man whose highest objective was exactly that. It was written by his wife who gracefully blended his life story with the narrative of a truly blended family. It was simple and clear, and it summed up the reasons we are here with a gentle confidence that belongs to those who love and are loved.
Sometimes, in the resevoir of daily events, time trumps relationship and productivity trumps purpose. But there, in black and white, one phrase captured it all. Ironically, the Gospel points in the same direction, but takes it further: Jesus shows the need for grace to meet each moment. “No one can come to me unless the Father draw him”. Grace is what opens eyes to truth and enables honesty and generates choices. Grace is what helps us love and accept love, learn to love and live the letting go that is so much a part of love. But there is more to this trajectory of thought. Just as grace enables us, there is also the reality that each human being lives in a world of complexity and challenge. And so there are rituals, systems, traditions within the church that acknowledge our errors, speak to our failings and enable us to find new pathways.
As a graduate student, I was delighted with the concept of “erroneous conscience”. Then, I looked at it as an “easy out” for errors. From the vantage point of age, there seems so much more. Human beings grow and change everyday, learn more, develop persepctives and shift pathways and keep becoming more. I finally saw that the church is a harbinger for that truth and established customs and rituals to affirm and recognize those emerging persons who dare to change. There is an acceptance of the idea that mistakes are made, that adjustments are possible and becoming more than who we are is a lifelong journey. In other words, life is not “once and done”. It is much more about meeting the world and issues head on and finding the most sacred of truths to live by.
To love and be loved is the most sacred of all human activity, all human purpose. It illuminates the darkest hours and shapes dreams into possibilites. It is interactive, simple and clear. And it is the most demanding of all things because it asks for that truth and honesty, the respect, that make love in every sense come alive. He achieved that, and his wife celebrated it, and we have it to aspire to as we move forward.