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  • Sean O'Leary

The Story of a Human Life

The real world that we live in consists of space, time and matter. It’s not always what we would like it to be. Everything isn’t perfect. Things go wrong. Accidents happen. The impact of poor decisions made by ourselves or others can linger on. We get sick, we lose loved ones, we make mistakes and we lose hope. When we grow fearful, we can become harsher in our judgements. Mistrust can blossom. We can become lost and confused by a world that we don’t understand. Any one of us can fall down at any time.


All through my life, whether working in science or education, I have always strived to be open to the possible. To see possibilities is to open up new opportunities, new ways of doing things or simply to progress away from difficulty.


I tend to be project oriented and like to feel a sense of anticipation at the beginning and a sense of completion at the end of each individual project. When I look back on my life, I know that this sense of completion has not always been possible. A feeling of wholeness can be elusive.


A project could also be a distinct stage in the journey of our lives. Our primary school years, college years, specific job or working life could all take the shape of a project. So too could our family lives or recreational activities. Getting fitter, losing weight or learning a new skill can take on the shape of a project.


It is tempting to evaluate our lives based on the number of things that we have achieved. This will look different for each one of us. It is impossible not to have the feeling that we could have done some things better. This is because it is not the number of things that we have achieved that really matters; it is the love with which we lived through each stage of our lives that brings real value.


As I’ve journeyed through this life, my worldview has become more biblical. This is not to say that I know the biblical accounts in great detail, but I have become increasingly aware of its themes so much so that I have come to think of everything as biblical.


The four major biblical themes are creation, fall, redemption and restoration. These four themes have been present throughout my life. Even if I just focus on an individual project that I participated in, these four themes remain evident.


At the beginning, we have the creative possibilities offered by the project. Everything is good and the sense of anticipation is palatable. Then comes some sort of problem. Something goes wrong, we feel hopeless and we may even be tempted to abandon the project altogether. Then we see things under a new light or someone offers us a helping hand. We then strive to fix the problems. We try to redeem the project so that it can be what it is meant to be. Finally, we again see the possibilities that the redeemed project offers for the restoration of the original vision.


I cannot think of a time in my life when these four themes were entirely absent. Sometimes, I reside in the excitement of creative possibility. At other times, I become reacquainted with the falling sense of hopelessness. At all times, I try though often fail to stay attuned to the power of redemptive love and the enduring vision of restoration, which helps me to believe that the world will be as it is supposed to be.


We often become lost by our own failings. There is a modern myth that we are capable of entirely redeeming ourselves. Creating a better life for ourselves will always be difficult but when we rely solely on ourselves to do the work of redemption, we stumble in the dark.


The Church keeps alive the reality contained in Sacred Scripture that the objective truth of the Gospels addresses the needs and strengths of people in every circumstance. Its epic story shapes our individual lives as well as the history and future of the earth. The enduring message is simple. Without love, we have nothing of value. Everything is just space or time or matter. It is love that animates our deepest self, the world we live in and the entire universe.


The Bible helps us to collectively recall a time in deep history when all things were very good, cope with a loss of peace, value the work of salvation accomplished by Christ and anticipate a time when all things will be good once again.


As I write this during the Coronavirus pandemic, I am deeply aware that we all need hope that things will be good once again. This is true whether we are religious or not. Science with its focus on space, time and matter helps us to see beyond the immediate crisis and to plan for something that has not yet happened, which in the case of the pandemic is a life free of Covid-19.


Life can often feel beautiful but broken. This is the great paradox of our lives. Science helps us to see beyond our immediate surroundings with all its possibilities and problems to a time when things will begin to make sense once again. Indeed, scientific advances enable us to see God’s epic story as a living, breathing, bountiful reality.


In every project of our lives, our work is important to God. In many of the Biblical accounts as well as in the great sweep of scientific discovery, we learn that our search for wholeness does not lie behind us. We cannot constantly look to the past with a sense of nostalgia nor regret. We cannot go backwards. All we can do is to remain steadfast to the light of truth. This is what it means to journey forwards with God.