This Mother's Day, I find myself wondering what it would be like to birth a new society -- one based on love of neighbor and justice for all. The task, of course, is not just for mothers, but for each of us as we continue our pilgrimage in this increasingly corrupt and hate-filled world.
Events last week demonstrated just how far we are from being an ideal society. Take, for example, vicious attacks on Asians, particularly those of Chinese descent who are being scapegoated on account of the "Chinese virus." Or consider the armed protests directed at governors who have closed down their states to curtail the spread of the corona virus. Or, even more shocking, the acts of violence perpetrated against workers who attempted to enforce COVID-19 safety measures-- the murder of Calvin Munerlyn, the security guard at a Dollar Store in Flint, MI, or the shooting of three teenage workers at an Oklahoma McDonalds. And, worst of all, the hunting down of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed jogger, by two vigilantes who decided they had the right to shoot him in cold blood simply because he was African-American...
What kind of a society are we living in?
Judging from the examples given above, we have lost all semblance of civility, human decency, and rational thought. We feel entitled to instant gratification and turn to violence when we cannot have our way. We refuse to cooperate with laws designed to protect us and our neighbors, claiming that our rights are being violated. We continue to regard those different than ourselves as "other" and seem incapable of living side by side. We trash the planet, consume a disproportionate amount of the world's resources and insist on calling climate change "a hoax." In short, we have lost "the American Dream" and have created a dystopia in which foreigners are no longer welcome and the most vulnerable are cast aside...
The first Mother's Day, which Julia Ward Howe and other peace activists promoted in 1872, was more than a day to honor mothers; rather, the founders' intention was to bring about global unity in the wake of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. Given all that is happening in our world today, their vision of peace and unity is one which has special relevance. This Mother's Day, let us reflect on the ways each of us might participate in the great act of giving birth to a new world order; to do nothing would be a crime against humanity.
Be well/ Stay well!
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Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; also have faith in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may also be. Where I am going you know the way.”
Thomas said to him,
“Master, we do not know where you are going, so
how can we know the way?”
Jesus replied, "I am the way and the truth and the life."
If we look at the genre of biblical farewell discourses, we will find certain common elements: 1) the presence of significant people such as Jacob gathering his sons (Gn 49-33) or Moses addressing all Israel (Dt 31:1-47); 2) a promise of God's blessing and protection, as for example, Joseph addressing his relatives in Gn 50:24-26; 3) prayers of praise and blessing to God, as in David's words to the assembly (1 Chronicles 29:10-20); 4) a reminder of God's commandments, as for example, Joshua's instructions to the people about rejecting foreign gods (Joshua 24:22-28); 5) prayers for a leader's successor such as David's blessing of Solomon; and, finally, 6) instructions on how the leader wishes to be buried, as in the case of both Moses and Joseph.
In each of these farewell discourses, the spiritual leader has one main intention: that is, to leave a living legacy so that those left behind can continue their spiritual journey, in covenant with God, even in the absence of their leader. To loosely paraphrase Dt 30, Moses warns the people of the disasters they will bring upon themselves if they abandon the Covenant, but then reminds them that keeping God's word is not difficult; in fact, it is neither beyond the heavens nor beyond the seas but it is very near to them, in their mouths and in their hearts. Moreover, should they ever turn from God and repent, God will always take them back and restore their prosperity.
Each leader is focused on those he will be leaving behind, not on himself or his approaching death, nor on self-pity, regrets or on a last minute recitation of glorious accomplishments. Even when Paul is about to leave Miletus for Jerusalem, he reminds the presbyters of Ephesus of how he lived when he was among them so as to set an example (Acts 20: 18-35). His speech is about
, not him. And when Joseph instructs his people to carry his bones with them when they finally return to their own land, this is most likely his way of ensuring his symbolic presence, into the future. Each leader, then, is conscious of how he functions as a God-bearing symbol; each makes sure that those in his care can find strength, comfort and resiliency in his absence.
JESUS' FAREWELL DISCOURSE
Jesus' farewell discourse during the Last Supper features many of the same elements-- gathering his disciples in an intimate setting; predicting the future; setting an example (by washing his disciples' feet, Jn 13:1-20); giving a new commandment (Jn 13:31-34); reminding them of God's presence; promising his return; assuring them of his love... His intention is to prepare his friends for the trauma of his death and the seeming end to their dreams. His words are his Last Will & Testament, his legacy, his disciples' inheritance. Moreover, he predicts the coming of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who will remind them of all he has taught them.
THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE
We who believe can find comfort in Jesus' words. When everything we have lived for seems to have come to an end, when darkness prevails and hope is a scarce commodity, when those around us are driven by ignorance, hatred and rage, when lies proliferate and Truth-speaking brings persecution, let us remember his tender message to his closest friends,
"Do not let your hearts be troubled"
(Jn 14:1). There is much to trouble us in this nation and across the world, and there is much that can move us into depression, despair and even loss of faith; however, Jesus promises,
"I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you"
(Jn 14;18). In this age of COVID-19, let us remember the many "dwellings" awaiting us in God's heavenly mansion as well as the presence of the indwelling Christ who will never abandon us. God's House is not only a future reality but a present-tense experience for all those willing to follow the Way, embrace the Truth, and find Life.