I follow the online daily prayer offerings from the Irish Jesuits, called Sacred Space. Today there is an invitation to see just how much my life is a gift from God, and I want to affirm this in a number of ways.
First, there is an invitation to see that we move from holy ground to holy ground.
In the moments of quiet reflection, 'We find ourselves briefly on Holy Ground,
with a sense of awe and delight. What are we doing all through life but moving
from one little piece of Holy Ground to the next?'
Then comes a simple prayer, which really challenges me and us all, in the way we live and how we relate to each other.
'Lord, you gave me the gift of life and freedom.
Through your love I exist in the world.
May I never take the gift of life for granted.
May I always respect the right to life of others.'
I would want to amend the last line to include respecting the freedom of others too.
Reflecting further on these wonderful ideas and possibilities, I simply name some of my realities.
I acknowledge the gift of life. I did not create myself and I do not sustain my life in being. Thus, I am a wonder, as is every life.
There is no benefit in saying that this gift is undeserved, or deserved. That is irrelevant. It is simply a reality that our life is a gift. For myself, the experiences of this last year make this even more poignant. I could be dead, but I am not. Thanks be to God.
My life is fragile and limited. There is much I cannot do. Much I dreamed of doing but have not and never will. But there is also much I can do. Although limited, I am capable of some love, some insight, some care of others, some service to the world. I have ideas, and potential in sharing them, and evoking the ideas and insights and gifts of others. (That's why it is important to affirm the freedom of others—especially those who all too willingly will give over that freedom, to me or to others, who may be tempted to 'care' for them in a way that actually takes their freedom and responsibility from them.)
Whatever is my potential, the reality is that I do not do what I could, and much that I do not want to do I nevertheless do. The Apostle Paul is dead right: 'I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.' (Romans 7.15)
But this is not the whole of it. It is simply not true and not helpful then to run to an idea of 'total depravity', the theological idea that human life is utterly wretched and there is nothing good in us. We are created in God's image and God is faithful to that purpose, that created intention, that gift.
What is crucial here is the idea that God is not only creator in the past. God is creator. It is not that we were once upon a time created in God's image, and it's all been downhill ever since.
Rather, every day is God's gift, and every day God invites us (me and you!) to live with God. As the text in Lamentations puts it: God's mercies are 'new every morning'. (Lam. 3. 23).
Every new day dawns, with its invitation to holy ground. That is nothing other than to be ourselves, with each other and with God. We are God's dwelling place, where God lives. Not only us, for God lives in the whole creation and invites it all into wholeness. But we are part of that. We are God's dwelling place, and so the prayer for this day is my prayer, and one I offer to you too. May we all receive and live the gift of life and freedom.