Today is just another Thursday in Lent, except that it isn’t. For about 1.2 billion of us it is the day when Pope Benedict XVI lays down his office and we enter a period of fervent prayer for the next successor of St Peter. It is a day out of time which paradoxically anchors us more firmly to time while pointing towards life beyond time, to eternity. By one of those wonderful coincidences which are really not coincidences at all, it is also sixty years since Crick and Watson’s discovery of the molecular structure of DNA (for the moment we must leave aside the unfair treatment of Rosalind Franklin as it is not germane to my argument). We are poised, as it were, between these two hinges, the natural and the supernatural, between our frail and imperfect humanity and the transformations of grace and the Holy Spirit.
Francis Crick was not, I think, a modest man, but anyone who heard him speaking of the beauty of the double helix could not fail to be moved. He was entranced, taken out of himself by the miracle of life. Benedict XVI is, by nature, much more reserved but when he speaks of the things of the Spirit he does so with the sureness of one who knows. In his own quiet way, he reminds us that to set one’s sight on the kingdom of heaven does not mean any less love for the things of earth. One cannot despise or disparage the beauty and holiness of what God has created when one seeks God himself.
Today is not a day for sadness or negativity but for hope and confidence in God. He is the true guide of the Church. He works with and through our humanity, not against or in spite of it. We are privileged to live through this moment, but with the privilege comes the duty. Now is the time for renewed prayer, renewed searching, renewed trust. God will never fail or forsake us.