Today I am Grieved. Yesterday I was grieved. When I read the statement of ISIS that claimed the attack, I was brought low with numbness and grief. I was grieved after the massacre on June 12th, I was grieved in the aftermath of November 2015’s devastation. The senseless violence that is in circulation at the moment is heart breaking and devastating, and that does not even come close to describing the feelings and emotions of those that were personally effected. (Any decent human being is effected by these senseless acts of violence in some way shape or form.) I do not have any answers. I do not have the right words to bring healing to those who are hurting. I do not have the answers to solving the problems that persist that cultivate such unwarranted hatred. I wish I did but I do not. I do, however, have my contemplation, I have prayer, and I have an understanding of the inherent love and grace that exists within the heart of all creation.
I sit with those who are mourning. I do not wish to speak answers, but instead, as Judaism would say, I am sitting shiva with those who mourn with me. I sit in silent solidarity. I sit here to listen; to offer a shoulder to cry on, to pray with those who pray, and to simply sit in the pain and loss with those around the world who suffer as well. I sit Shiva with those I’ve never personally met, but with who I share the common denominator of the Divine Image. I am connected with them through the sacred flow. My heart mourned in rhythm with yours.
Even though I don’t have the answers for the brokenness of the world at large; even though I do not know how to engage in peaceful lines of communication with those wishing global harm to others; even though I have no real understanding of the geo-political process; even though I have no answers to ease the pain and cycle of violence that currently exists between Radical Islam and the Western World, (Please note, Radical Islam and Islam are NOT the same thing. They stand for completely different values.) I do have an answer in my life. I believe that one of the most powerful ways of teaching the love that exists in the heart of all things is through exemplifying it. While I have no answers to solve the brokenness and violence that runs rampant throughout the world, I do know that I can effect change in my own life. I can end these cycles of violence and brokenness in my life. I can urge others to do it in their lives as well. Indeed, I urge you now my fellow sisters and brothers, to end the cycles of violence and brokenness in your own lives. We can bridge gaps between us and the people around us. We can bring forgiveness and healing to brokenness in our lives and the lives of those around us. When someone is rude to us, we can answer rudeness with kindness. When someone threatens us, we can return to them radical love. When someone rejects us, w we can show them acceptance. We can be the example. As Jesus taught, we can be the “light”. We are like a lamp burning in a window on a hill. It shines bright for all to see, and when people see it, they refuse to blow it out or cover it up. Let your light of love, service, and acceptance shine forth.
Last week I had chapel with my students, and in chapel we looked at the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 as found in Matthew 14. One of the things that we see in the story (and this is by no means the ONLY point to the story) is that our gifts, our service, our love; it can multiply to something greater than we could ever have imagined. As Richard Rohr says,
The flow of grace through us is largely blocked when we are living inside a worldview of scarcity, a feeling that there’s just not enough: enough of God, enough of me, enough food, enough health care to go around, enough mercy to include and forgive all faults. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the human mind is actually incapable of imagining anything infinite or eternal. So it cannot imagine an infinite love or a God whose “love is everlasting,” as the Psalms continually shout. In other words, the mind of itself cannot know God.
The many “multiplication” of food stories in the Gospels—when Jesus feeds a crowd with very little (for example, Matthew 14:15-21)—clearly exemplify abundance as the foundation of reality. The spiritual point is grace, not some mere physical miracle. Notice in almost every case that the good apostles, who represent our worldview of scarcity, advise Jesus against feeding the crowd: “But how will two fish and five loaves be enough for so many?” Jesus is trying to move them from their worldview of scarcity to one of abundance, but does so with great difficulty. In the end, there is always much food left over, which should communicate the point: Reality, with its inherent overflowing, always has more than enough of itself to give. Just observe the seeds, spermatozoa, and pollen of the natural world.
It is not just that we live in a world of abundance. It is not the fact that in the light of these tragedies, when we feel like all is hopeless, there is hope and love eternal. It is the fact that there is an overabundance. There is more than enough to go around! Even with the smallest of offerings. Even in our lives, which feel so small, so meager, so filled with not-enough-ness, when given, it can spread to feed all. Beyond that, it reaches beyond those you are trying to feed. The love that you are intentionally showing to your estranged brother can turn into an overabundance of love that spills over into the leftover baskets and is able to spread to others who you had not intended to feed!
So, in light of this tragedy, in light of knowing that my fellow brothers and sisters are grieving the loss of children, loved ones, co-workers, school mates, and so much more, I can do two things with my day today.
1. I can sit shiva with those who grieve. I can enter into the pain and loss with them, just as Christ enters into my pain and loss with me continually.
2. I can live my life intentionally centered around love, acceptance, and service. I know the weight even the most meager gift can have. Lives impact lives. My life can impact other’s lives, which then go forth and impact other’s lives, and so on and so forth. This love runs abundantly throughout the core of the cosmos. I can choose to tap into this source, the Sacred source, the Divine flow, the love that is the building block of all things. I can love others. I can accept others in my daily life, with the knowledge that this abundance will go forth and grow and impact lives that I never dreamed it could.
There is more that can be done. I will freely admit that. I could hop on a plane and go, in person, to stand vigil with those standing vigil. I could have a moment of silence with my students. I can give money to organizations committed to giving aid where it is needed. The possibilities are countless, but I believe, and have observed, that these two things are absolutely vital to anyone and everyone. Will you join me in sitting Shiva? Will you join me in committing to a life overflowing with love and acceptance and service?
Grace and Peace,