The Southern Poverty Law Center did its homework once again and found that there are 1,020 active hate groups operating in the United States.
1,020 organized groups exist because their members hate something or someone. Seriously? That is 1,020 organized groups with who knows how many members whose purpose for existing is to show their hate for something or someone. That is a whole lot of hate. What do they hate? Avocados? Spinach? Dogs or cats? I think not. Most of the time it is human beings: people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, Muslims, Native Americans; anyone who is not white, not Christian and not born here in America. Not sure why Native Americans have a hate group against them. Oh well, life is a mystery.
Most recently, we have seen the hate shown to the Muslim community in New Zealand, and here in America there have been videos from college campuses (not from the 1970s or 80s but today) where students are in blackface, have nooses hanging from doorways, show swastikas on walls. Hate is alive and well.
As a Dominican Sister of Peace, it would be a little ironic for me to belong to a hate group but wouldn’t it be OK to hate the haters? Probably not, and you all know why. People of the Gospels live under the mantle of Love thy neighbor as you would love your self. So I guess that if you hate your self, then a hate group would be the perfect fit.
Have you followed the news last week? Terrorism has struck New Zealand, a beautiful small country that looks just like Ireland in many places: rolling green hills alive with herds of sheep.
Because I spent a month there a number of years ago, and loved every minute of the trip, I felt very keenly the pain of the terrorist attack that killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch.
I was struck by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s words: “You, you’re us!” when responding to the senseless violence against the Muslim community there. She covered her head as a sign of respect when embracing a Muslim woman, while visiting those grieving people. Good people who committed no crime and who only sought a peaceful and productive life.
Her leadership in this horrendous moment is a sign of courage and strength to all of us, no matter our faith tradition. Her instinctive sensitivity to the community and courage to act to protect her citizens from harm holds up a higher way. Good must be our response to evil. Compassion must be our response to loss. When evil seems to prevail, good must come from our actions. Bad action must be met with good action.
The other day, the Gospel reading we prayed with was from Luke:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
In hearing it, I imagined that Jesus was aware of the laws of karma: that is, when you send good energy out into the universe, it comes back to you in some other good form.
According to the basic Sanskrit definition of karma, it simply means “action”. Laws of karma (there are 12 of them) are all about the positive or negative valence of our words, thoughts, and deeds. In essence, everything we do creates a corresponding energy that comes back to us in some form or another. A good action creates good karma, as does good intent. A bad action creates bad karma, as does bad intent. This concept is in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and other traditions that originated in India, and various schools in each of these tradition.
Every human heart is geared to this exchange and balance of good, no matter what tradition you come from. This is not revolutionary. Normal people want to be treated with respect and want to be generous toward others. Jesus holds up to us the basic laws of human decency and takes it further. Do good even in the absence of good; do good even in the face of evil.
Prime Minister Ardern says to the Muslim community: You belong to us, you are us. There is no separation, we are one. Terrorism, racism seeks division, violence, and hate. Her courageous response was not to simply say, what a horrible thing has happened. She has put claim to her citizens, we are together, you are us and we will not let the evil of this act separate us from one another.
These two questions are bouncing around together as I struggle with a collage about the Spirit of peace. It started with some decorative renditions of doves of peace, and these are almost complete—I’m sending a couple examples along. This labor of design has been absorbing and I’m happy with them. But I’ve been trying to find an arrangement, a background-foreground interaction to create movement in order to convey a Spirit surprising and unfettered. And it hasn’t happened. I’ve played with all kinds of letters and patterns and shapes and materials to get both “Spirit in pose” and “Spirit-on-the-fly” connected in one visual whole.
I have been at this for a whole year. This labor has at long last given rise to a revelation: I’ve been trying to make two different collages out of one. The first idea,the doves of peace, is far from the experience of Spirit that I had hoped to convey. Now it is clear: one cannot bring to vision the essence of Spirit in static portraits. The searching eye/heart must be led into blurred quickness, shimmering, gusting, blazing, cascading….
Not long ago I attended a funeral. Inside the booklet was an admonition about who was permitted to receive communion, reminding non-Catholics that they could not approach unless they were seeking a blessing, and Catholics that they had to be in the State of Grace.
Grace—a state? As in unchanging? Stable? Something we hold carefully within ourselves, a garden perhaps, or a reflecting pool, a holy emptiness found somewhere beneath our ribs, something that needs a regular refill?
And here of course, is my Spirit-puzzle in a different dimension. Grace is not a state (apologies to Thomas Aquinas and Greek philosophy). It is impossible to “have” it or “contain” it. Grace moves in and through us, an ongoing happening, a shared adventure with others, building, bonding, giving and receiving, stretching and reaching out.
The science of the universe is a revelation of constant change in a vastness of time and space so huge, so ancient, so expansive. Those who study the tiniest of things have discovered worlds beyond imagining on an infinitesimal scale—neurons, cells, molecules, viruses, DNA. Physicists have split the atom into tiny moving parts. The Big Bang, the beginning, was an explosive trillionth of a second, a bursting forth of particles of energy which crashed into each other and sizzled into the basic chemistry of the universe which over billions of years became the birthing clouds of stars and the building blocks of every element of our precious earth and our amazing selves.
There is an ever-recurring mystery here. It is mobility, not stability, that underlies and supports the matter-ing we are and which surrounds us.
All is grace, suffused by grace, abounding and transforming, alive in our bodies and our communities, in every dying and blossoming anew. And moving in it all is the Spirit of Creator and Christ, that mysterious pushing and pulling and longing and yearning that throbs in our veins and erupts in our voices of praise and witness to the call of a divine Mover. And we will be carried by the grace which swirls in the galaxies and in every human heart, pledging a future whose dimensions are beyond all imagining, a vast gathering into the Christ.
I have another collage taking shape. The doves of peace aren’t going anywhere. I’ve enjoyed the process and I will finish and frame them. But this work- in- waiting demands dynamism, fire, and wind, getting into the flow. And even if I finish it to my own satisfaction, it will be so limited a conveyance of the Holy that I wonder both why I bother and why I can’t wait to start in again. Veni, Creator Spiritus!
Every year, people wait for March 1st, and then say in great hope of spring when it is usually still very cold outside: “In like a lion, out like a lamb.” In the coming month as the Earth continues its orbit around the Sun, we will tilt as a planetary community towards the Sun (at least in the Northern Hemisphere). We won’t necessarily get any closer to the Sun, but our orbit will tilt us TOWARDS IT, making us warmer by the end of our late winter’s journey.
This year, Lent begins rather late, in fact today, and I’d like to suggest: “In like a sinner, out like a saint,” in hope of what will happen this Lenten season. In the next 40 days of Lent, I hope we will all choose to tilt towards God and grace, as we continue our daily lives, both alone and in community, even if we don’t feel closer to God and grace while it’s happening. I hold this hope not only for myself, but for all those around me: my family, my friends, my students, my colleagues, my neighbors and even I suppose my enemies.
How does this happen? Traditionally we are told to include fasting, almsgiving and prayer. Whatever we do to live these out in our lives, they connect us more closely both to God and neighbor. As we spin around the globe each day of Lent and make our journey that will tilt us towards God and grace, so we will naturally warm up to one another too.
This Lent remember it’s not just about God and me. It’s about all of us together on one planet, leaning into the inexhaustible grace and mercy of God. We are all called to become saints together by our leaning into God and to one another and to the warmth of whatever we need to thaw our frozen hearts to make them ones of flesh again. May we support one another well on this Lenten journey in the coming days!
I first heard that phrase about 50 years ago in my high school English class. We experienced Siddhartha and Bhagavad Gita and more Eastern literature, but this phrase has stayed and gives pause when I hear it.
It seems there are different translations of it, and maybe even spellings of it, but the one that catches me now is “God is IN everything”.
Do I really believe that? If I do what does it look like in the day to day? Well, it could mean that I don’t help the homeless person on the corner because God would want me to or because I was taught to love my neighbor; but because God is in that person just as much as God is in me. It could mean that in order to truly live a life of compassion, I can’t hate or kill based on ignorance or fear or my own self, because by doing any of those things I am dishonoring God in my self but also God within the person or creature I am harming. I cannot pick and choose who is a good person and who is not because all have God within them.
As I look around at the situations in our present world on so many levels, it really is difficult to say that God is within all things because there is so much going wrong; somehow I am seeing that it is because I have continued to only see God within those who live according to my standards. How much am I missing when I fail to acknowledge that God is within, that “God is IN everything”.