In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul says, “We are God’s work of art.” Some translations say, “We are God’s masterpiece.” In what ways are you a work of art, a masterpiece? In what ways are you truly wonderful—and lucky? Let’s look at a few of those ways.
You are wonderful and lucky first of all by the fact that you exist. Your existence is due to your extremely fortunate personal ancestry. As Bill Bryson reminds us in his book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, “every one of your forebears on both sides (was) attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so.” Each one of your direct ancestors delivered a “tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment” that “eventually and astoundingly” resulted in you.
And how many ancestors was that? We all know we have 2 parents and 4 grandparents. But don’t stop there. You have 8 great-grandparents and 16 great-great-grandparents. The number doubles with every generation, so by the time you go back 10 generations, you have (drum roll please!) 1,024 direct ancestors! Amazing!
You are wonderful because you are absolutely unique. Your DNA reflects your uniqueness. No one in the history of the world has ever been exactly like you, nor will there be anyone in the future who will be exactly like you. Even identical twins who share the same genetic makeup aren’t exactly alike. Once that fertilized egg divides into two distinct individuals, the differences begin.
You are wonderful and lucky that once you were conceived, you suffered no fatal trauma in the womb. You were carried to term and you survived the ordeal of birth. But you came into this world almost totally helpless. You came equipped with only two “skills”: you could suck and you could cry. But you are wonderful and lucky because you had individuals who cared for you every single day and night. In time you grew into a healthy child and were eventually sent to a place where a group of generous and dedicated adults (called teachers) educated you. The fact that you are able to read this blog is due to some teacher in your past whose name you may have long forgotten. (I haven’t forgotten the name of the teacher who taught me to read: Miss Enniert at James A. Garfield Elementary School, Willoughby Hills, Ohio, circa 1950.)
You are wonderful and lucky because within you (in the words of William O’Malley, SJ) there are “endless, miraculous transformations” taking place—most of which you are unaware of. What transformations? Here are a few:
+ Your body has 35 million digestive glands to process food. Some of your stomach acids are so strong they could dissolve razor blades. So your stomach needs a new lining every three days to guard itself against its own juices.
+ The human body contains 60 trillion cells, all working to keep you whole and alive.
+ You have 52 bones in your feet—which is one-fourth of the total number of bones in your body.
+ Every seven years your skeletal system has completely replaced itself.
But you are wonderful and lucky for even greater reasons. You are not only made by God, you are loved by God. This God knows you intimately and celebrates your uniqueness every moment of every day. As the writer Jan Johnson has said, “God thinks you are a good idea.” This God loves you more than you can even imagine, by creating and sustaining this incredibly beautiful world in which you live. By entering this world in the person of Jesus, whose life and teachings show us the way to true happiness and eternal fulfillment. By sending us the Spirit to continue (with us!) the work of bringing about the Reign of God.
You are wonderful and lucky too because you have people in your life who love you and whom you love… How lucky (and wonderful) can you get?
Let us conclude this reflection with Psalm 139, a lovely psalm that celebrates our uniqueness and God’s great love for us. This version is called “You Carry Me” by Patty Felker:
Are there any facts in this reflection that stood out for you?
Are there other reasons you are wonderful and lucky? Would you like to share any of them with us?
PS: A big thank you for your prayers for last week’s retreat with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in Cincinnati, Ohio. And I thank the Sisters for their warm hospitality, their attentiveness, and their prayerfulness! It was an inspiration to be with them!