Posted by: geolocke | 2014/10/02

This Middle Life

This past Mother’s Day, Father gave an excellent homily. It was so good that afterwards he received a hearty round of applause. That’s unusual in the Catholic Church. After a particularly good homily we typically nod our heads in agreement and perhaps whisper a comment of approval to our neighbor in the pew, but applause? That just doesn’t happen. But in this case the applause was well deserved and even though Father later told me that he was a little embarrassed by the episode, I think it is only fitting to let our shepherds know when they have touched us in a truly moving fashion.

One thing Father focused on was how just as a child is nurtured in the mother’s womb, so we as people of faith are nurtured by Mother Church as we prepare for eternal life. This one thought struck a chord within me and I have been turning that thought over in my mind ever since. The thought was reinforced later when I read about a pair of twins who were born holding hands. The thought that refuses to lie still in my mind is this: we who call ourselves Christian believe, in a way, that we live three lives. Our first life is in the womb. Our second or middle life is spent here in this world. Our third or eternal life is spent after our death, either in Glory or in Agony.

Our first life is nine months spent in the womb. While living this first life we are totally dependent on our mother for our every need. We can not even breath on our own but must take our oxygen from her breath by its passing through a thin membrane from her blood to our blood. Our heart beats of its own accord and our brain functions, but we have no need to exercise our own will, or so it seems. It’s a pretty easy life by all impressions, just sitting their enjoying the ride, so to speak.  If all goes well, In nine months time we are born into this middle life, kicking and crying with our previously unused lungs. It is true that some children die in the womb, either through disease, accident, or even on purpose, but most children do make it through their first life to this middle life.

As I said above, being born into this middle life begins with a lot of kicking and crying. and we’re still totally dependent on our parents for the first several years of this life. Slowly we begin to exercise our free will. At first in the form of crawling and exploring our surroundings, then standing, walking, running and jumping. If we’re fortunate, our parents help us learn how to use our free will by teaching us the difference between wrong and right. Our parents are also the first to teach us about our faith. And so we begin what we hope is a lifetime of growing and learning, but at this point we are learning with a child’s comprehension.  We make mistakes along the way and again, if we’re lucky, we learn from those mistakes. By the time we reach our twenty’s we are usually on our own, exercising our free will and making our own decisions, some good and some bad.  It seems that learning lessons is an ongoing part of living this middle life.

For those of us who live a life of Christian faith, we are called onward by the higher purpose of helping our sisters and bothers here with us in this middle life. We take those ideas of wrong and right, and our fledgling faith that were given to us by our parents and we continue their development and formation. However we do not rely on our own understanding alone, but on the community that surrounds us. No one is truly an island, to paraphrase a saying, so we Catholics turn to the Church for our continuing education about what is right and what is wrong and enlarging our faith.

[Editor’s Note: It has been pointed out to me that “The first and greatest commandment is to Love God above all else, the SECOND is like it, to love your neighbor. MT 22:37-39” I neglected to stated earlier that the purpose of this essay was to explore the second commandment in light of the comments made in Father’s homily and my further meditations upon those comments. I should have written this clearer. My apologies for any misdirection I may have implied by leaving that information out of my posting. -geo 2014-11-19]

At this stage, we are learning as adults and thus we are able to comprehend far more completely the wonder that is our faith. One of the greatest wonders of our faith is that we believe that we will all be reborn into eternal life. For Christians, our hope is that we, and all of those who have gone before us, the Holy Hosts of Heaven, will live our eternal life with our Creator.

I do not think that it is possible to be a Christian in isolation. True, it is possible be self-sufficient; to live by one’s self in complete isolation, to fashion tools by hand, to build a shelter and fashion clothes and to live off the land, but from the start we are working from a foundation of knowledge that was given to us by those who came before us. So living by one’s self in isolation is not so much being self-sufficient, as much as it is removing one’s self from the fellowship of humanity.

Contrary to Darwin’s belief that only the strongest species survives and perpetuates, it seems to me that we humans are by all accounts one of the weakest species on the planet. We are easily injured or sickened and we are not particularly well equipped in body or strength to easily ward off all that can hurt us. Instead, we protect ourselves from the elements and dangers, and provide ourselves with food and shelter only through expending great effort on our part. The critic might reply: “But that is our strength, our big brains that allow us to do all these wonderful things,” but that is not where I believe our true strength lies. I think our true strength lies in how we care for one another and depend upon one another. We recognize that we are weak by ourselves and therefore we care for each other so that we might survive. It is a special gift, this depending upon and caring for others. I think God placed this gift within us when our first ancestors were initially conceived, and it is this same gift that God calls to when urging us to learn and understand God’s ways.

Through this line of reasoning, I reach the conclusion that our first life, that spent in the womb, is all about living in total dependency, in the intimate community of child and mother, as we come into existence.  Then our middle life is all about our struggle of learning to live and grow in fellowship with and depending upon each other. For the Christian, our eternal life would then be the fruit of the previous two struggles; Totally depending on and existing in the intimate full communion and relationship with our Creator and all the Holy Hosts of Heaven. Every step along the path of these three lives is lived depending on others, in one fashion or another, and that is an idea that runs counter-intuitive to modern thought.

It seems obvious to say this, but the fact is that the healthiest full term newborn infant would not survive their first hour of this life, much less their first year without someone caring for them; someone who had come before them; someone to pick them up, clean them off, encourage their first breath, tie off their umbilical cord, nurse them, feed them, clothe them, and train them how to live and survive.

And we who have made it this far in this middle life, we would not survive for very long without the help and company of those who have come before us; who train us and guide us in what it means to be fully human; not just how to live and to survive, to work and provide for our needs, but also how to love, to laugh, to cry, to be happy, to get angry and how to forgive.

The difference between the first life in the womb and the middle life here is that the child in the womb has no choice in the matter of its growth and birth. It is fully dependent upon the will its mother. But we who make it to this middle life are able to exercise our free will either to help those who we share this life with and those who are coming into it, or we can exercise it only for our own needs and desires.

For the Christian, the hope is that by exercising our free will in fellowship and accordance with the good that has been passed on to us, we will be born again into eternal life with our Creator, and our birth into eternal life will be helped along by those who have gone before us and we will all live in eternal communion with our creator.

For those who choose to exercise their free will only for their own desires, and who exclude themselves from the companionship of humanity, what will they awaken to in the eternal life? An eternal life in isolation from all that exists? To the Christian, that is perhaps the most horrible threat of hell.

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Responses

  1. This article is well written but I found your messaging confusing as it pertains to the Christian faith…

    “For those of us who live a life of Christian faith, we are called onward by the higher purpose of helping our sisters and bothers here with us in this middle life.” — Christians highest purpose is “To Know, Love and Server God” , it is only by love of God that we come to understand why and how to love and respect our neighbor.

    The first and greatest commandment is to Love God above all else, the SECOND is like it, to love your neighbor. MT 22:37-39

    “Then our middle life is all about our struggle of learning to live and grow in fellowship with and depending upon each other. For the Christian, our eternal life would then be the fruit of the previous two struggles”

    Christian life is all about forming a loving relationship with Christ… “He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (Eternal Life)” John 14:6

    God Bless and Mary Keep,

    Bob v

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] reader recently posted a comment about something I had written in my post called This Middle Life. His comment […]

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