The old priest scratched his head and turned again to face them. It really was too early in the day for matters like this.
“Gentlemen,” he began and then thought to soften his message, “Boys… lads… not everything in this life is reasonable. It is easier when you’re talking about good things and bad things. You murder a man in cold blood, for example, and then you think to yourself, Self, did I do a good thing or a bad thing? And your self says to you, ‘Look up Exodus Chapter Twenty,’ and you do and there it is in black and white. It’s a lot harder when it comes to reasonable and unreasonable things.
“You’ll have heard it said that everything happens for a reason. Well, poppycock! Simply because someone makes a statement like that doesn’t make it any truer than my insisting that the moon is made out of green cheese which it may or may not be; I have no empirical evidence either way. It is true, God has His grand plan—I have to believe that (it’s more than my job’s worth not to)—but it will come to fruition despite what we do not because of it. Make no mistake, we are all spanners in God’s works, you and I and everyone else. That’s what free will is all about.
“People do unreasonable things all the time—and by that I mean things for no good reason at all—and when they start to look for reasons why they did what they did in the first place, they find there aren’t any. That doesn’t mean that answers won’t ever exist for what they did, however, the answer comes at the end of the sum not before it. How would you feel Mr Murphy, Mr Milligan, if your schoolteacher had asked you one day what equalled four?”
“Two and two equals four,” fired back Milligan.
“Which can be true,” said the priest, “but what about three plus one or seven minus three or the square root of sixteen?” He had lost them there. “Reasons, if they exist at all, are always to be found before we do things; answers, once we’ve worked them out (if we ever figure them out), always come into being after the fact.”
The emphases didn’t help.
“So did we sin or not, Father?” enquired a now more-confused-than-ever Milligan.
“That… is for each of you to answer.”
With that he nodded to both men and headed off quickly towards the rectory leaving the two bewildered brothers standing there.
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