Wednesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 343

Come now, you who say,
“Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit”–
you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow.
You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears.
Instead you should say, “If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that.”
But now you are boasting in your arrogance.

The philosopher John Macmurray insists that history is created moment by moment as the present unfolds. Decisions make history. Incidents that happen mechanically – like sunrise, sunset and solstice – may be past but they are not history; nor do organic processes like spring, summer, winter and fall make history. These things happen inevitably. Earthquakes and tsunamis – though certainly mechanical -- may be difficult to predict but they are not historical events. History is written by the creature that has choices and makes decisions.

No one can know the future because the actions that create it are not yet done; you and I make them moment by moment. We may intend to make certain choices but until that moment arrives those choices are only intentions. Nor will we know exactly what each action is until that very moment because no one can anticipate the precise circumstances of that time and place. We navigate the present as it occurs and "The best laid schemes of meese and men /gang aft agle." 

The past is determined; past actions cannot be undone.  One might try to counter the effects of past actions but they cannot be erased. The very effort to undo a past act has been shaped by it. The present is ever unfolding and the future is always unknown. Unlike the past, the future is not determined and no one knows what will happen.

Human life -- we should remind ourselves -- is determined by our decisions. I heard a actor on the radio tell the interviewer and the listening audience that, just as her acting career was blossoming, she got pregnant.

Hello? Do you mean, “It just happened?” When I went to school, I was told certain human activities generate children. My teachers also insisted decisions have consequences. You don’t just get pregnant. No one gets drunk; and many fatal illnesses follow very deliberate decisions.

It takes a philosopher to remind us that, while the future is unknown, human beings are responsible for the consequences of their decisions.  At times, we seem to be bobsledding downhill through life with hardly a moment to think about what we’re doing or what must happen next. Events seem to unfold at a breakneck pace with many narrow escapes and some apparently unavoidable collisions. But we chose to make life a bobsled run in the first place and we are responsible for what happens.

The Apostle James and the Philosopher Macmurray remind us, there is nothing inevitable, guaranteed or assured about human life. We do well to slow down, ponder the opportunities as they open before us, ask the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and choose wisely.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.