Attending an ordinary weekday evening Mass last week I was surprised (and pleased) to see a large number of well dressed young and older people in the congregation. That is not say that Wimbledon's mass goers are usually more sartorially challenged but seeing so many on a Monday evening is uncommon.
The curate opened the Mass with reference to a funeral that had taken place earlier following the deaths of three members of the same family in an aeroplane crash - I assumed that the accident involved a light aircraft rather than a commercial flight. One of the girls in the congregation was grieving the death of her sister and parents. Even as total stranger I could feel and share the grief and sadness. A poem was read out from the pulpit; tears welled...
Delivering a sermon in such context must have been difficult but the priest spoke with sensitivity and compassion. He mentioned the thoughts that surely passed through the survivors' minds and certainly crosses mine from time to time: If our all loving omnipotent god really exists why does he let such accidents and disasters happen? The Jesuit curate let the question hang rather than offer any possible answers thus giving eveyone one present the opportunity to reflect.
My own thoughts were along the lines of: Say God's waiving of the laws of physics maths and relativity etc in our apparent best interests was the norm rather than the exception what kind of lives would we lead? Logically the human spirit would be diminished as what would be the point of taking risks or trying to stretch human endurance learning or research to the limit and beyond? If we are truly made in the deity's likeness then being able to make choices for good or ill rather than having decisions (made in our own best interests of course) by someone else, seems to me to reflect our very high god-like status.
An Egyptian Jesuit wrote a short book entitled I think:
"God of the Present Moment". His point was as I recall, that in time and space each of us has to make decisions virtually in each moment about how to deal with the world and people and events as they occur or as we make them. Then time moves on imperceptibly to the next thing and our next action but what we have already done affects that and others too hence the god-like nature of free will. If we had no choices to make and could make no real impression on our lives of those of others we would be mere automatons. Even a prisoner subjugated by an evil regime, is by his reactions to their cruelty and injustice, God of the Present Moment. That is of course easy for me to write -I wonder how god-like my actions/reactions might be in such incarceration?
Tragedies and death are indelible parts of human lives but grief can at least be shared even with strangers.
At the opposite end of the spectrum of human emotion will be the birthday celebration today of oldest maytrees' daughter. The events and words recounted at last Monday's Mass will remind me to take nothing for granted and to try to live every moment to the full.