Farewell to Stephen Hawking. Given two years to live in 1963, he failed quite brilliantly to grasp the concept of time.
It just so happens that, alongside the readings set for today in the Lectionary, there is another set of readings that ‘may replace those provided for Holy Communion any day during the Fourth Week of Lent’—and that the Gospel in that set is John 9, the account of Jesus giving sight to a blind man.
Confronting the view that disability is a punitive consequence of sin, Jesus declares that “he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”
In this instance, those works are revealed by his being given sight, miraculously. But God’s works are also revealed through the ways in which people responded to him in his disability—his life revealing the compassionate hearts of some, and the hard-heartedness of others. And, most of all, God’s works are revealed in him through his enquiring mind, that joyfully reaches beyond the already-known, challenging conventional wisdom in a quest for greater understanding of deeper reality.
A fitting Gospel for the morning the world learns of the death of Stephen Hawking, a man whose living with disability—and vulnerability—revealed God’s work through medical and scientific miracle; through exposing the hearts of others; and through one of the most enquiring minds of all.
Rest in peace, Stephen Hawking, and rise in glory.
Blessed are you, Lord God,
our light and our salvation;
to you be glory and praise for ever.
From the beginning you have created all things
and all your works echo the silent music of your praise.
In the fullness of time you made us in your image,
the crown of all creation.
You give us breath and speech,
that with angels and archangels
and all the powers of heaven
we may find a voice to sing your praise:
from Eucharistic Prayer G