A canny old Australian priest that I knew in Rome, once made a humorous comment about a fellow priest, who was a prolific writer of books. ‘He has never been guilty of an unpublished thought,’ he said of him. The old priest was an historian and therefore much given to precision and exactitude in his study and in his writing, whereas the other was a theologian and a prolific publisher.
Professor David Starkey might well merit the same comment about published and unpublished thoughts. He, too, is expansive and prolific in his writing and speaking. Today I came across a comment of his that I find very moving. He describes our human life as ‘the place, where past and present and future, talk to each other.’ I love this line.
In my own life I held on to the past as precious because it held my family memory and my happiness. I had been plucked from home at the age of eleven and in that moment I lost my connection to my own life. From then on I had a priestly life but not a personal life. Only when I met Margaret and left priesthood did I reclaim a personal life. In these years, past, present and future were held in harmony and spoke to each other.
When Margaret died suddenly, my life stopped too. The past became a place of sadness. The present lost all power and the future did not exist. A time of struggle ensued, with illness and depression and recovery. As I recovered, my son married and two grandchildren came along. In this process my life quickened and past present and future talk to each other once again.
It is like a resurrection. I died when Margaret died. That is how I felt. I could not see how life would ever pick up again. But it has. My son and my grandsons are hugely involved in this. They are the future, a future that I am interested in. Had I been completely alone, with no immediate family to relate to, I do not know how I would have fared. I have been fortunate in my family.
But I come back to that line of David Starkey. Life is where the past and the present and the future talk to each other. We all have these three elements of life. Sometimes we cling to the past. Sometimes people live only in the present moment. Sometimes people cannot see a future at all.
The happy life, the wholesome life is when we can hold all three of these elements in a peaceful co-existence. That doesn’t just happen. We make a journey to that place. It involves pain and sorrow. Sometimes we feel it is all over, but it is not.
In the Gospel today people want to know who Jesus is and where he comes from, and just exactly where does he think he is going. He is from Nazareth, yes, but really he is from God. He is on a journey of life that will lead him to crucifixion, and beyond. His past, his present and his future is something we now are part of.
Every day our past, our present and our future talk to each other. I wish you a happy and a hopeful conversation.
31 March 2022