These days, this year, 2020! Oh, how we the people, the created ones, we who have seemingly given so little thought to all the many, many days which preceded today. We who have been like sleeping babies, we who are living as though we have been suddenly awakened. And indeed, we have been awakened by the labor pains of our own birthing process. Yes, we are being born again into a brave, new world; a world which has been made by our own sleepwalking lives. Today, yes and every day hereafter, we are living the day as though it is our final exam. We have been tested and are even now being tested and pressed. Look around, our sanity is pulling away from us. We are pulled apart from our better selves and our communal bloodshed testifies against us. What shreds us to pieces? What dislodges us from our moorings, from the safe harbors of our former complacencies? Is it not our combined complicity and greed to blame the other one(s), the other side, those ones outside of our beliefs and traditions, which when combined with our self-righteous, impoverished, and dull thinking only births and extracts more hateful behaviors. Atrocious, stunning, inexcusable, vile. These are the outcomes which abound in today’s headlines.
When the tentacles of hate have reached their full maturity, there can be no more life as we know it. No more civility…no more peace. Hate, fully overgrown into our hearts, the one true source of all cancer, can only go stronger every day in our midst while we demand our rights to be heard and our right to be freed from our past. Hate will indeed choke, blind, and silence us all to the doom of our own making.
It is LOVE, human and divine which overcomes death in nations and generations and in all horrors of our time . Death is given power over everything finite especially in our period of history. But death is given no power over LOVE. LOVE is stronger. It creates something new out of the destruction caused by death; it bears everything and overcomes everything. It is at work where the power of death is strongest, in war and persecution and homelessness and hunger and physical death itself. It is omnipresent and here and there in the smallest and most hidden ways as in the greatest and most visible ones, it rescues life from death. It reaches each of us, for LOVE is stronger than death.Paul Tillich – The Boundaries of Our Being
Oh, how we are being tested, pressed, and yes even pulled apart from every one of our perceived safe places; our moorings and safe harbors are nowhere to be found. There is only ONE ANTIDOTE…ONE CURE for our current sickness: REFUSE TO HATE the other! Refuse it and we shall make ourselves well. This tonic is not an easy one to take, and we will have to dose ourselves liberally, daily, moment by moment…but take our medicine we must. There can be no other remedy for our survival. We must choose to sacrifice our need to be right in order to become healthy again…otherwise we will be consumed by the monster in our midst. The monster which can and should be slain because it brings us only death and suffering.
What does it mean to be nonviolent? Coming from the Hindu/Sanskrit word ahimsa, nonviolence was defined long ago as “causing no harm, no injury, no violence to any living creature.” But Mohandas Gandhi insisted that it means much more than that. He said nonviolence was the active, unconditional LOVE toward others, the persistent pursuit of truth, the radical forgiveness toward those who hurt us, the steadfast resistance to every form of evil, and even the loving willingness to accept suffering in the struggle for justice without the desire for retaliation.
The battlefield in which we currently inhabit our struggle for well-being is waged in one venue only. Lest we think it is someone else’s fault and not our own. Lest we think and believe this fallacy, then we are without remedy. But if we were to realize that our battlefield engages only one solitary combatant, then perhaps we have found hope for a peaceful future. Our hope may be rescued when each one of us, lay down our weapon of right and privilege. Because our survival (individual and collective) is dependent upon the battle being waged for each of our singular hearts and minds. Wake up we must to the war set before us. The war we wage is fought against and within the confines of our own thinking and believing. On this battleground we must refute the desire and the need to be right whereby we give hate for another any purchase in our thoughts, words or deeds! Check yourself today…check the pulse of your thinking and feeling…of your posts on social media and in your conversations with your close others. Check yourself please, I implore you! There can be no higher nationalism, no better self-indulgence than to love…one another…the good…the bad…the ugly…the undeserving…and yes, even the enemy. How far we have wandered from our homeland…LOVE!
We think fear, anger, divine intimidation, threat, and punishment are going to lead people to LOVE. Show me where that has worked. You cannot lead people to the highest level of motivation by teaching them the lowest. The sacred scriptures of all faiths call us to LOVE as we have never loved before. This requires effort, vigilance, and radical humility. Violence is easier than nonviolence, yet hate only perpetuates hate. The wisdom teachings remind us that LOVE—active, engaged, fearless LOVE— is the only way to save ourselves and each other from the firestorm of war that rages around us. There is a renewed urgency to this task now. We are asked not only to tolerate the other, but also to actively engage the LOVE that transmutes the lead of ignorance and hatred into the gold of authentic connection. This is the narrow gate Christ speaks of in the gospels (Matthew 7:13). Don’t come this way unless you’re willing to stretch, bend, and transform for the sake of LOVE.Fr. Richard Rohr