Our grandchildren often ask questions. Sometimes we can answer them! We try to answer with due care, trying not to make our answers too complicated or convoluted. We try to respond to them in a way that encourages them to keep asking questions, to be open minded and reflective. We encourage their learning as people of spirit and body, and we usually learn as we respond to them. ‘Out of the mouths of babes and children…. (Ps 8.2 and Matt. 21.16).
This week my 8-year-old Grandson, Asher, asked me: ‘Why does God let people die?’ A fitting question derived from the story of Good Friday.
Even so, the question came to me out of the blue; I had to pause, sit down and sit in silence for a few moments to gather my thoughts. How should I answer?
The gospel, even the stories of the Resurrection, will not allow a simplistic answer, such as, ‘It’s ok, Asher, because God takes us to heaven after we die because Jesus went before us ….’ I did not answer that way, and never would, even if there is a simplicity of truth behind it. I tried to speak simply (though he is bright!), but along the following lines. ‘We grow as people, and as we grow and mature, we have to let go of things along the way, things that seem good and helpful, things we can’t always hold onto because to do so would keep us in childhood.’ And I went on, ‘People of religious faith speak of God, and how this world is not all there is, and that, along the way, even in death, God is with us, with our family and friends along this way. So yes, we all will die, but Easter day, and the resurrection of Jesus, reminds us that there is a bigger life, and a bigger life the other side of death.' As I pondered my answer to Asher, the lectionary readings this week also spoke to me in a similar vein. At the tomb, Jesus would not allow Mary to touch him. Jesus response challenges Mary to love in a bigger way (John 20.1-20). Mary had to live into this resurrection reality to find out its full import. On the road to Emmaus, two disciples walked along in deep grief at the crucifixion of Jesus. They had no recognition of Jesus until he broke the bread. Life beyond the confines of this world is often not readily obvious. The disciples learned to open their eyes (John 20.20-31).
We too have to journey along, let go of ways of being that we hitherto needed (no holding or touching yet!), we have to keep asking questions of Jesus and of his followers to help us see that Jesus is with us along the way. Resurrection does not create a magic spell that falls upon us. We have a God given freedom, we are not robots, we can live and learn, we can choose, and we can let go, move on, grow and change. Well my grandson seemed happy with what I had said. He will keep asking questions, but he seemed most chuffed because I congratulated him on asking such a good question!