Loss is multi-faceted. Sometimes named “change” or “transition”, it is also both truth and opportunity. And it is most importantly a critical element of human experience. Every aspect of loss is a reminder of our competencies and capacities as human beings. That is mirrored in all the great literature of the world, in the stories told over firepits in backyards and in the revered books of the Bible. Each of those provides mirrors for what we know and windows to see what we have not yet noticed. Loss is both a mirror and a window when confronted in its reality and when normalized by conversation, by sharing. Silence about loss deepens and multiplies it, enables it to override choice and opportunity. Conversation about loss connects persons and stories and communities, proves that all of us are more than the worst thing we have ever done, and that each of us are far from idealized perfection.
Throughout history, God has been characterized anthropomorphically, understood as human. Authors like Karen Armstrong and Jack Miles have contended with the concept with insight and humor. God emerges through the Old Testament and matures in the New Testament. The full range of human emotions and actions are present: creativity and caring, anger and revenge, compassion and confidence, rescue and abandonment. Always, there is depth and breadth to complicated characters, settings and scenarios. From Moses and Marian to Judith and Holofernes, David and Bathsheba, Peter and Mary Magdalene, there are clear reflections of human hubris and humility, choices and challenges. There is continuity in the sense that there are divergent elements of human nature present in the stories, and there is consistency in both tragedy and triumph as part of human life. God clearly plays a role in personal lives, in relationships both complex and tender. There is Abraham and the sacrifice of his son, Moses and the Promised Land, Jesus in the desert and Paul’s conversion. And somehow, the human understanding of God is shaped by the elements of cultures and time periods. God who is defined as “Other”, is confined to the structures of human intellect. But suppose that thinking finds new ground and interpretation in these times. Suppose that God, more than judge or arbiter, is actually the source and nurturer of love and goodness. Suppose God’s Hand is the gentle one, the kind one. Suppose God is love. How does that change things?
Some phrases like “God loves you” are simple and sometimes trite in usage. But if God is love, then everything from facing loss to celebrating births takes on new meaning. All other boundaries are transcended by that love. With God as a loving companion, loyal and trustworthy, it is humanly possible to do what seemed impossible. Accessing and accepting unadorned truths may not be easily digestible, but with the courage born of knowing love, it is possible. Abandoning delusions and illusions, making honest choices, is entirely possible with confidence in being loved and cared for. Knowing love and acceptance enables ordinary human beings to experience extraordinary moments, days, years and decades. Maybe that is what this week’s readings are really all about. After all, the second reading from James says:
“All good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.
He willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.“