By John Rieping | Published 18 Jan. 2014 in The Madera Tribune | All rights reserved |
A week and a half ago the mysteries of my genetic programming were tentatively explained to me. For a $99 fee, a California-based genomics company analyzed my DNA.
It estimated my heritage is 67.2 percent European, 18.5 percent Native American, and 1.7 percent African (the remainder is unclear). Delighted, I forgetfully shared only the first two aspects of that result with a co-worker Wednesday.
"Well, that was kind of obvious," he replied. "We already knew what you were."
He had a point. Those who know me well are aware my father immigrated from Germany, and my mother's parents came from Mexico. You don't need a degree in Mexican history to know the nation's population is heavily "mestizo" (a Spanish term for someone of mixed Spanish and Native American descent).
Yet, to me, my ancestral ties to Germany, Mexico, Spain and, unexpectedly, Africa felt a bit more solid now, like tilled adobe clay of a local farmer's field under my feet.
My genes hold more than markers to my family's past, however. Apparently I also am sensitive to alcohol because of a shortfall of proteins to break it down in my bloodstream. So it may be more harmful for me than for others. Fortunately I've never been much of a consumer of the beverage, despite living in wine grape territory.
I'll spare you details on my earwax type, muscle performance, and more. Needless to say, I've been amazed at this glimpse of how much about me had been influenced already at the first moment of my conception. I am reminded of a song lyric of Scripture: “For it was you (God) who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…
"My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my 'embryo' (in Hebrew, “golmi” or “golem”). In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.” (Tehillim/Psalm 139:13, 15-16).
Naturally my parents played a pivotal role in my formation. Some may recall my tale a year ago about their courtship (see http://goo.gl/2ZGACN). Fifty years ago today, Saturday, Jan. 18, they wed in my mother's childhood church, St. Alphonsus of Liguori, on historic palm tree-lined Kearney Boulevard in Fresno.
This (Saturday) afternoon at 1 o'clock, Joseph and Theresa Rieping, their five children, 16 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren will thank God with a Mass at St. Joachim Catholic Church. Anyone reading this who wishes to attend will surely be welcome.
In one of the Scripture passages my father chose for the Mass, the apostle Paul writes, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31b)
It is a statement of the obvious that we believers seem to forget in times of uncertainty, pain, or menace. After all, if we believe God is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, and loves us, then what do we have to fear? We should always overflow with confidence.
Needless to say, we don't. Most of us falter in it at times, and for some of us insecurity or anxiety is normal. This is partly because we know firsthand how situations can twist against us, despite even our best efforts. We remember or we imagine, and our heart quakes.
Yet Paul went on to write: "Can anything cut us off from the love of Christ -- can hardships or distress, or persecution, or lack of food and clothing, or threats or violence?" (Romans 8:35)
Trusting in God doesn’t mean we’ll never suffer trials, as my parents well know. In marriage, your beloved won’t just be with you amid trouble -- your spouse may sometimes be the source. As my mother once told my father: I will always love you, but right now I just don’t like you.
And there are some marriages, unlike that of my parents, in which it seems evil has the upper hand, or has triumphed. Who of us have not encountered this?
Even so, Paul rightly wrote, "No; we come through all these things victorious, by the power of him who loved us." (Romans 8:37)
How can he say this? Because this is true victory: that "nothing already in existence and nothing still to come ... will be able to come between us and the love of God" (Cf. Romans 8:38-39).
If God is truly as we believe, there is no greater achievement than to have such a lover.