December 11, 2013
by Friar Jim Van Vurst, O.F.M.
How complex are our lives? If you really think about that question, the answer is beyond our wildest imagination.
For example, consider Abraham of the Old Testament: the father of the Israelites. His descendants were Isaac, Jacob, and Judah. Scripture scholars estimate that about 42 generations later, Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary.
A generation is estimated to be 20 to 25 years. With people living longer today, it is closer to 25. Centuries ago, however, it was closer to 20. So, for the sake of example, let’s use 20 years to estimate a generation since we are going to look far back into our own family histories.
Let’s imagine that, starting from the year 2000, each of us has two parents, four grandparents, and eight great-grandparents. That goes back three generations. If we go back four generations, we have 16 ancestors (that’s about 80 years in our family history). Going back eight generations (160 years), we have 256 ancestors. And at 12 generations (240 years), we find there are 4,096 ancestors.
Here is another startling truth: if there is any change in the history of either side of our families, no matter how little or far we go back, you and I would not exist. Think of it this way: let’s say, in the 16th century, Bruno was traveling in Europe in his wagon. He had reached a point in his life where he wanted to find a woman to marry. Suddenly, he comes to a fork in the road. He can turn right and marry Maria or turn left and marry Bertha. Every bit of Bruno’s ancestry hinges on which direction he takes.
We are here because of our unique history. And change, no matter how remote, alters everything. If our parents had not come together, we would not be.
This brings up a powerful truth of faith. Sometimes people want to tell God how God should run the world. We say, “If only God would do this or that.” And we think we know the consequences of whatever God will do. We look at the immediate result and say, “Yes, that is what I want.” Of course, we can’t possibly imagine the consequences of our wish if it was granted. If God showed that even the good things we want had consequences down the road, we might end up saying, “Sorry, God. I was wrong. Don’t grant me my wish.”
This is part of the reason we as Christians believe in the providence of God. It means that we walk in faith and trust in God’s care. Our own individual lives are complicated enough. We can be grateful that God is looking over the world and loving every person—including each and every one of us.
Readers respond to Friar Jeremy Harrington's November E-spiration, Musing: A Spirit of Gratitude
Dear Mary Ann: Thank you, Mary Ann. It’s also good to meet you! And thank you for the idea of a monthly gratitude plan. I guess we need to do both, but I like reviewing the blessings of the month and not only my faults. Friar Jeremy
Dear Maria: Your perspective of awareness of what others are going through and God standing beside you is very helpful. It is good to hear from Uganda! Friar Jeremy
Dear Laurie: Thanks for your words of encouragement. You pray and reflect with a cup of tea. I pray with a cup of coffee every morning. Friar Jeremy
Dear Nancy: I'll try to imitate you and focus on the positive today. Peace! Friar Jeremy
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