“Does living in the prime of our life have something to do with Math?”
In sitting down to help my daughter with her math homework, we started to talk about the meaning of prime factors (any prime number that can be multiplied to give the original number). At the end of the math lesson, my daughter asked me, “when people talk about living in their prime, does math have something to do with it?” Initially, I did not make much of the question, and then I began to reflect more deeply.
Scientists have determined the prime age of our physical health to be roughly between ages twenty-nine and thirty-three. In varying degrees, this can be gaged by muscle strength and bone mass, which has us running faster, jumping higher, and so on.
As I was uncovering this information into how we think about living in our prime, my attention was drawn to the life of Christ – given the fact that he was crucified during the “prime of his life,” age thirty-three. It would appear living in our prime, and death, go hand in hand, which is a paradox of our Christian faith that offers up an important lesson in the spiritual life.
We live in a society where the young want to be old and the old want to be young, the former and the latter desiring to live in the so-called prime of their life. As one older friend of mine mused recently, “if only time machines were real.” For some of us, hitting the rewind or fast-forward button occupies much of our thoughts, but are we avoiding the unavoidable question, the question of death?
As Jesus hangs from the Cross in the prime of His life, He encourages us to ask the question: what is the meaning of death? In death, the flesh of the person begins the process of decomposition as the soul leaves the body and goes before the presence of God. Even before death, the process of disintegration creeps up on us as our bodies begin to slowly breakdown. From hair loss to wrinkles; from infertility to immobility; from eye glasses to canes, death is a reality that we cannot slow down no matter how hard we try. As Jesus is crucified during the prime of his life, it’s as if God is sending us a message: “whenever you die to self, this is the prime of your life.”
As I revisit my daughters question: “does living in our prime have something to do with Math?” My answer is a resounding yes! As I noted in my blog piece on G.K. Chesterton’s unconventional way, once we understand the “mathematics of God” (a phrase of Fulton Sheen) revealed on the Cross -- where loss becomes profit; weakness becomes strength; and death becomes life, we begin to see that death and dying to self is what constitutes the prime of our life. Indeed, death is the prime factor that draws out the originality to who we are before God, and once multiplied, draws us deeper into the presence of God.