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.
May it be so everywhere.