MOURNING THE DEATH OF INNOCENCE, ROBBED CHILDHOODS, STOLEN FUTURES, DESTROYED FAITH AND CRIMES AGAINST BOTH GOD AND HUMANITY;
ALSO MOURNING HATRED, RACISM, INTOLERANCE
AND ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION
Greetings, SBT Readers:
Words matter -- we all know this! Perhaps as children we were bullied, only to be told by well-meaning adults,
"Words can't hurt you!"
Perhaps, smiling through our tears, we bravely sang that childish rhyme,
"Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me!"
Perhaps a barrage of insults, curses and hate-filled rhetoric came our way and we discovered that words penetrate skin, as surely as a knife can plunge into the heart. Words can make us feel embarrassment, shame, grief and despair; words can also make others view us negatively, sometimes giving them permission to treat us as "other" -- even as "disposable." Take, for example, the assassination of St. Thomas à Becket (1170), murdered in his own cathedral after King Henry II is alleged to have said,
Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?
Or, closer to own time, take Rwandan politician Leon Mugesera who in 1992 called for the extermination of Tutsi "cockroaches; his inflammatory words led to mass genocide. Or take Hitler's chilling words about the Jews, uttered in Salzburg in 1920:
"Don't be misled into thinking you can fight a disease without killing the carrier, without destroying the bacillus. Don't think you can fight racial tuberculosis without taking care to rid the nation of the carrier of that racial tuberculosis. This Jewish contamination will not subside, this poisoning of the nation will not end, until the carrier himself, the Jew, has been banished from our midst."
Over the last few weeks, there has been a dramatic escalation in hate crimes just as there has been a corresponding rise in hate-filled rhetoric, especially as it relates to refugees, asylum seekers and the media. Hate begets hate; hate-filled words cause hate-filled actions. Regardless of the speakers' intentions, their hate-filled rhetoric has a life of its own, feeding into the paranoia and fears of those who are easily influenced and manipulated.
We have heard this in all the "viral" videos in which white citizens are terrorizing minorities, telling them to
"Go back where you came from!"
or else calling the police to remove them from where they actually belong! We have witnessed this in the massacre at the
Tree of Life
synagogue in Pittsburgh, in the bombs delivered to prominent Democrats, in the targeting of African Americans. ...
Today, in the United States, we have a trigger-happy society, armed with guns and empowered by violent language. I fear we are going to see more tragedies, with even greater loss of life. Now that armed militias and far-right groups have decided to head to the Mexican border to halt the caravan of Central American migrants, the likelihood of yet another tragedy is drawing closer....
Let us pray for an end to the insanity, and let us also commit to using words which heal rather than hurt, language which lifts up rather than degrades, and rhetoric which unifies rather than divides.
Please note that my video reflection,
is an imperfect production, entirely unscripted and therefore prone to some "rough spots" in terms of clarity and expression! There's no time for "re-takes"!
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
"Which is the first of all the commandments?"
Jesus replied, "The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
MK 12: 28b-34
What does it mean to love God with our whole heart-- and is it humanly possible to do so? This commandment, so foundational to Judaism (Dt 6: 4-9), is also central to Christianity: the task of every believer is to allow God to be the center of one's life, affections and priorities; this means that any "false gods" -- however good or noble-- must take second place. The
: שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל; "Hear, [O] Israel"
), which is based on this commandment, is the most important Jewish prayer; recited morning and night, it affirms God's absolute rule, establishing God as the beginning and end of human life, or, in other words, as our source and destination. Parents are obligated to teach the
to their children, and to keep the commandment ever-present -- hence the use of "phylacteries" on the wrists and foreheads during prayer, and the placement of "Mezuzahs" on the door posts of Jewish homes as a constant reminder of God's reign.
But while we may have no difficulty reciting the
(in English!) or of quoting Jesus' reference to it, how successful are we in practice? Loving God with one's whole heart goes beyond mere ritual observance (that is, attending liturgy on Sundays and Holy Days); or sending one's children to Christian schools; or even making time for daily prayer and devotions. Loving God with one's whole heart goes beyond putting God on our calendars or daily schedules, though that is a starting point. Nor is it about joining religious life, getting ordained or volunteering for the Church. It is not about "making time for prayer" and certainly goes beyond studying theology or even spirituality. Rather, it involves "being" constantly in God, with God, in ongoing union and loving surrender. This intimate relationship to which each of us is called demands that we surrender the totality of ourselves to the Divine Presence -- our dreams, desires, goals, relationships. It means that we really live "Thy Will be done," instead of giving it mere lip service; that we let go of our ego attachments to make more room for God -- actually, so that we can give God ALL the space as that is what God asks for. Paradoxically, if we surrender everything to God, we find more than everything in the Divine Embrace.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
- What relationships, activities and possessions compete with God for your attention?
- If God were the center of your life, how would your life change?
- Conversely, would do YOU need to do to make room for God in your life?
- How can you grow in intimacy with God?