The happenings of the past few weeks, multiple layers of wars and weather tragedies and political machinations, find me with a cramp in the load-bearing muscles of body and spirit. How does a Christian, a Dominican, possibly live with and respond to the heavy clouds that bear down on us individually and corporately; how do we pray, how do we lift our voices in a Holy Preaching that brings truth and hope, how do we live and proclaim the Gospel of Peace?
Some of us have devised escape strategies, trying to ease our frustrations and anger and their contagion—we cut back on our daily dose of news and commentaries, and try to keep our conversations from “going there.” Some of us follow it all with that impulse for finding and telling the truth, though contending with the temptation to freeze into a particular focus and its blind spots, or the trap of over-righteousness. Some try to channel our energies to what action we can take, donating, writing letters or calling politicians, volunteering to drive, to collect, to distribute flyers. We are brought to prayer, all of us, all the time, because a million voices call out for help and solace, for the basics of human life taken from them by weather, by war, by dehumanizing treatment. And as Dominic showed us, we pray as we weep and mourn in sympathy and solidarity: Have mercy on us, open our hearts, hear our prayer, save your people, forgive and transform us.
Decades, centuries, millennia of history have told us that ridding the world of “problem people” has proved to be horrifying and disastrous. And we know in and through Christ that God loves and holds precious each and every person. We hear today that Jesus in Luke’s version of the “sermon on the mount” actually stood on the plain, stood level with them and among them and us (he said “You” ) and told the poor and beaten down and mourning and persecuted that God chose them and blessed them, even the very worst of them. No wars—no horses and chariots, no arrows, no guns, bombs, or missiles—no walls or barriers or ghettoes or prisons or concentration camps—are part of God’s ardent arsenal of love.
There is a story that comes from the tales and sayings of the Rabbis. The Hebrews have passed through the Red Sea. The horses and chariots of Pharoah have gotten mired in the mud and drowned in the returning waters. On the other side, there is elation, singing and dancing: ”God, Our God, has saved us from our enemies!” And as the festivity goes on God comes to the one who is to lead them into the Promised Land, Joshua, and asks him, ”Why are you so merry? Why do you celebrate the deaths of the Egyptians? Don’t you know that they are also my children, beloved to me?”
In Christ there is neither Jew, nor Greek, nor national nor ethnic boundaries, nor political parties, nor skin color. No caste or class. In this time of division and destruction, we respond most authentically as we try to fathom the largeness of the Heart of God, the vast breadth and depth of God’s embrace. And that we are part of it.