Ron and I write to you this evening with hearts weighed down by the violent events, language and overall horror of this past week. We join our hearts with all who are seeking to find peace and work towards just resolutions to conflict here in this country and around the world. As people prepare to gather
in our beloved city of Boston to protest the presence of hateful rhetoric, the violence of the very recent past ….and the neglect that is long standing in our land, we pray for a peaceful witness to truth and the opening of a pathway that will bring into the light enlightened and powerful new ways of birthing hope in our country. We are not able to physically participate in the Peace Walk tomorrow…however we will be with those of you who do walk in prayerful presence. Be safe, and know that we love and celebrate your witness.
This Sunday’s Gospel is one of my (Ron) favorites: a woman from Syro-Phoenicia, a Gentile, begs Jesus to heal her daughter. At first, he ignores her. She persists. The disciples grow impatient and beg Jesus to send her away. Jesus finally responds to her and says he has come only for the Jews. This mother’s love instills her with still more perseverance—she won’t stop advocating for her daughter. Jesus demeans her by saying, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she’s a mother with the heart of a lion and she has a sense of humor SO she persists still more—oh how she loves her daughter and wants her well—she says “but even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the children’s table.” Jesus is amazed at her dogged perseverance and grants her wish, “O Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” This woman secures the healing of her daughter and her persistence and perspective changes the mission of Jesus, from “only for the Jews” to now “open to everyone.” This woman converts Jesus from nationalism to inclusivity.
It is more than fitting that Jesus’ conversion from nationalism to inclusivity is read on the weekend when we are absorbing and cannot forget the horror of Charlottesville, the terrorist attack in Barcelona, and are awaiting the coming of the “Free Speech” rally to Boston. It is hard to believe the hate and the pain that drove a man in our country [and in Spain too] to go barreling with a car into a crowd of people who believe differently from him. Why does it have to be either/or? Either they matter and get good things or I matter and get good things. Both/and is much more open-hearted. God’s heart is big enough for everyone to count. If we share what we have, everyone matters, everyone shares blessings—that is God’s economy—gifts are meant to be passed on—no one should be excluded. Jesus learned, so can the human race today: God’s heart is big enough for everyone. How can we stretch our hearts that wide open?
I (Ron) just came from a wonderful Interfaith Gathering of Unity, Love and Strength at Temple Israel of Boston. It was led by rabbis, imams and Christian clergy who called us to Unity, Love and Strength for everyone as Boston prepares for this “Free Speech” rally tomorrow. Mayor Marty Walsh, Governor Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey, Police Commissioner Bill Evans were all there. Baker shared that his favorite beatitude is “Blessed are the Peacemakers” and challenged us to be peacemakers in our homes, in our workplaces, in our city, wherever we are. Maura Healey rallied the crowd by challenging us to stand up and say no to hate, no to neo-Nazism, no to white supremacy.
Rev Liz Walker and other local clergy promoted the “Joint Statement from Boston Area Religious Leaders on the Horrific Events in Charlottesville.” The statement begins with the words: “ Would that the troubles visited upon Charlottesville were unique. Alas, they are not. White bigots, some proudly wearing Nazi regalia, shouting racist invectives and egging for a fight, engaged in brutish scuffles, fear-mongering, and even murder in broad day light. These, alas, are ‘unoriginal sins,’ with language and symbolism drawn from one of the darkest, most ghastly moments in human history.” The statement ends with the words, “Knowing that many people in our communities will gather for prayer and public action this weekend, we offer the following questions for contemplation and discussion:
- What is one concrete action you can take today to oppose the despicable actions in Charlottesville and elsewhere in our country?
- How can you help address issues of racism and bigotry in your own community?
- Where might you engage in meaningful conversation and/or action with people from other religious and cultural communities?
- What sustains you in your peace and justice efforts? What resources do you need to carry this work forward?”
There are several paragraphs that come in between the opening words and the contemplation questions quoted above. You could find them on line by googling: Greater Boston Interfaith Organization. We think that you would find this of great interest and encourage you to check them out.
Bringing these reflections right down to where the rubber hits the road, what can we do as The Spirit of Life: A Catholic Community of Justice and Joy? These reflections lead us to ask: What can each of us do in our own neighborhoods? What can we do collectively as a Community?
Wendell Berry offers us further food for thought that offers hope in the midst of such dark times:
To my granddaughters who visited the Holocaust
Museum on the day of the burial of Yitzhak Rabin
Now you know the worst
we humans have to know
about ourselves, and I am sorry,
for I know that you will be afraid.
To those of our bodies given
without pity to be burned, I know
there is no answer
but loving one another,
even our enemies, and this is hard.
when a man of war becomes a man of peace,
he gives a light, divine
though it is also human.
When a man of peace is killed
by a man of war, he gives a light.
You do not have to walk in darkness.
If you will have the courage for love,
you may walk in light. It will be
the light of those who have suffered
for peace. It will be
~ Wendell Berry ~
(A Timbered Choir)
At The Spirit of Life, we work together in prayer and companionship to loosen the attitudes and brokenness which can hold us bound. We believe that God’s desire for us is that we be “Whole” and thus “Holy”… full of life , unfettered by life-destroying prejudices and free to move openly as the Spirit calls us.
Our belief in the sacredness of all created beings and loving relationships compels us to respond with care and compassion to all who are marginalized in our church and world. We invite you to come and to pray with us as we “do our own work” in growing into a deeper awareness of our own gifts and ‘growing edges’ and together create a community that invites diversity and honors the uniqueness of each individual and every journey. We are confident that you will feel welcome in the “home” of The Spirit of Life.
Ron & Jean