I had the chance recently to serve on a jury for a criminal murder case. I have now had some time to reflect upon my life experience and the lives of those I “met” during the trial. Our lives are at opposite ends of the spectrum of life.
My life has been so sheltered and cherished in comparison to the struggle and violence endured by these new “friends.” It hardly seems fair that one could live as I have while others live such lives of struggle. I have lived in relative peace while they live in constant “war” and fear.
How can I, a single woman, change my world? How can I bring peace to the streets? How can I stop the terror in the home? How can I heal the wounds of despair? What difference can I make? I am not a world leader. I am not a state legislator. I am not on the city council. But I can still take one day at a time and reach out at every opportunity that comes to me.
I can become aware of those situations surrounding me. I can plant a little mustard seed of hope in the lives of those that I meet. I can help a new family with childcare issues. I can help the elderly woman who needs a ride to the doctor. I can listen to that teenager that knocks on my door trying to earn money for school. I can support ministries to abused women knowing others will take my tiny mustard seed, feed it, water it, and allow it to grow into large branches sheltering, caring, encouraging others…creating peace in the home, in the streets, in the neighborhood, in our cities, in our countries, in the world.
A Friend of Peace
A Friend of Peace
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is no less than a heartbreaking experience. People all over the World feel powerless as day by day we witness the genocide of a people. The cruelty is overwhelming. Women and girls are raped, little children are killed, and massive destruction abounds. Sometimes all we can do is weep.
Some think Ukraine ought to surrender so lives might be saved. Others believe we should risk nuclear war to stop the atrocities. One thing is clear, there is no clear answer except to pay attention to the courage of the Ukrainian people themselves.
I saw powerful images as I surveyed the latest reports on the Russian assault on Good Friday. The Ukrainian People carried a Cross through the streets as they passed bombed-out buildings and homes. I am inspired by the faith of so many who suffer terribly. I wonder if I could ever have such faith.
We seem frozen in the face of the tragedy unfolding before us. The words of Jesus on the Cross echo in this time of war and destruction, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" The violence we are witnessing breaks our hearts, and we cannot imagine how we can ever recover from the horror we are seeing.
I suggest we look to the Ukrainian people themselves. It often happens that oppressed and injured people rise up anew, rebuild their lives, and inspire the people of the World. As history unfolds, the courage, faith, and bravery of the people of Ukraine will inspire generations not yet born.
For the moment, we must work for peace in any way we can. Our broken hearts testify to our care and love for those who suffer. Therefore, we join with Pope Francis in demanding an end to this senseless, immoral, and illegal war:
"In the name of God, listen to the cry of those who suffer, and put an end to the bombings and the attacks! Let there be a real and decisive focus on the negotiations, and let the humanitarian corridors be effective and safe. In the name of God, I ask you: stop this massacre!"
Blessings to you, Holy Community, for allowing your hearts to be broken. Your broken hearts are no less than your love for the hurting people of the World. Be aware of their love for us.
THE HEART MATTERS
In times of conflict and division, we seek comfort and hope. As the reign of terror unfolds in Ukraine, our hearts break with anger, confusion, sympathy, and the desire to help. Many people feel an overwhelming sense of powerlessness. We ask one another what we might do to help. Remember, our disturbance over our sense of powerlessness indicates our willingness to help in any way we can. Our desire to be of help becomes the basis for our caring for one another. Peace-makers embrace the powerlessness of the moment by consoling and challenging everyone they meet to support those on the front lines.
This is a time to reconsider how we might redistribute any possessions or funds we have for the sake of other suffering people. If injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere, the reverse is also true. Justice anywhere is justice everywhere. Let us commit ourselves to the cause of helping one another in this time of uncertainty. Peace-makers seek out troubled and upset people offering a safe haven for them to express their anguish and emotions.
It has been said we must hear the cry of the poor; they have something to say to us. The wounded, afflicted, and marginalized of the World have something to say to us. Peace-makers strive to listen. Consider one powerful example.
Think of the Polish women who left baby strollers in the railroad stations for the Ukrainian mothers fleeing the ravages of war. Putin’s bombs reveal his weakness as a leader. He kills children to hold on to the illusion of his power. He is a frightening individual inviting many of us to curse if not hate him. Peace-makers become aware of any hostile feelings they might have, transforming their rage into acts of justice, kindness, and compassion. The people of Poland know something about the destruction war brings. As the mothers remember their own plight of years ago, they reach out with baby strollers to welcome those who have lost their homes. The World is blessed and inspired by the women with their baby strollers.
Peace-makers are ingenious people who seek to bring hope, comfort, and relief to afflicted people in any way they can. Thank you for being a peace-maker in any way you can.
WHAT MOTHERS KNOW
Six hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the soul of the World experienced what can only be described as a rebirth. In the midst of war, conflict, and uncertainty, sages in India, China, Greece, and the Middle East realized the essence of all religion is no less than the virtue of compassion. Of course, compassionate-based civilizations flourished in prior times. But, now, for the first time, what many indigenous people instinctively knew surfaced consciously in the most unlikely situations and circumstances. Compassion was no longer optional but essential.
Confucius formulated the Golden Rule, Buddha spoke of cultivating the “limitless heart” for the sake of others, and Socrates recognized the power of doing good for others as transformative. Think of First Samuel 26 when David saves his enemy from harm. The Prophets of Israel demanded compassion be the standard of life (see Isaiah 1: 11-17). Psalm 86: 15 identifies God as compassionate and gracious. No longer would the Divine be satisfied with ritual offerings unless those offerings came from one who showed kindness and mercy (Hosea 6: 6).
The sages and prophets of old did not think compassion to be an ideal. Instead, compassion is born of justice which in turn leads to compassion. There is a rebirth of compassion in our time. An overwhelming number of people realize we must practice compassion in all the affairs of life. More and more people know we must care for the Earth and not prey upon it. We must be merciful to our fellow creatures, respectful of the air and water, and wise in our use of natural resources. Otherwise, the Earth will die and our lives will end.
Jesus teaches his disciples and followers to love their enemies. This is shocking. He was not speaking in idealistic terms. His teachings confront how we as individuals might relate to one another and how Nations might consider one another. In the tradition of the Great Sages, Jesus realized the importance of living in humane and compassionate ways.
The power of our weapons reveals the fears in our hearts. We are better than our desire to destroy. We must cultivate the “limitless” heart of compassion. We must never grow weary of those who engage in conversation, dialogue, and diplomacy for the sake of justice and peace, understanding and respect, love and kindness.
Blessings to you, Holy Community, for all the times you created peace in a moment of conflict. Thank you for listening to your heart and blessing the World. Blessings upon you as you continue to walk on the pathways of compassion and understanding. Thank you for practicing compassion in all the affairs of your life.
LOVE OF ENEMY
On January 11, 2022, the Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Most Reverend John C. Wester, issued an important Pastoral Letter entitled, “Living in the Light of Christ’s Peace.” The Archbishop invites the people of his native New Mexico and all concerned peoples to engage in a serious conversation concerning the destructive threats posed by the continuing build-up and maintenance of the nuclear stockpile throughout the World. He reminds us of the crucial role New Mexico plays in developing these weapons of assured total destruction of our common home, the Earth.
One can sense the Archbishop’s broken heart as he recounts his visits to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. You can hear the cries of the children who experienced the new, bright light not of a new day but their death and destruction.
The Pastoral Letter takes us on a journey through Church teachings and the wisdom of many peacemakers until we finally arrive at the realization that mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent to aggression or a pathway to peace. Archbishop Wester encourages us to hear the pleas of Pope Francis, who boldly confronts the shortsightedness of peace through weapons and war. The Pastoral quotes Fratelli Tutti (October 2020), in which Pope Francis states:
“International peace and stability cannot be based on a false sense of security, on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power… In this context, the ultimate goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons becomes both a challenge and a moral and humanitarian imperative… With the money spent on weapons and other military expenditures, let us establish a global fund that can finally put an end to hunger and favor development in the most impoverished countries.”
Archbishop Wester recalls the confiscation of land by the government to construct nuclear laboratories and testing sites in New Mexico. He believes the legacy of this injustice against Indigenous peoples continues “the legacy of colonialism, racism, and systemic violence.”
This important Pastoral Letter is more than a letter to a local community in a particular place. Its passion, insight, and call to action inviting people from the entire World to not only enter into a vibrant discussion about the threat of deteriorating stockpiles and runaway destructive development of killer weapons but to take a moral and uncompromising stance in the pursuit of peace based on true justice. We must come to our senses before we destroy ourselves and the World.
The Archbishop powerfully teaches, “We are the people who designed and built these weapons of mass destruction. We were the first to use them. We must be the people to dismantle them and make sure they are never used again.”
One quote from President Dwight D. Eisenhower struck a chord. We would do well to heed his wisdom and insight: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed.”
Blessings to you, Holy Community, for your courage to pursue peace based on justice. Thank you for your courage to engage the wisdom of the peacemakers in your pursuit of what is right, just, true, and beautiful.
MAY THERE BE PEACE ON EARTH
Knowledge is power, it is said. But true knowledge lends itself to a better understanding of what we think we know. Several questions come to mind. We invite you to explore them in your pursuit of truth, knowledge, and peace.
1) Can we challenge ourselves to learn more about what Christ taught?
2) Can we challenge ourselves to learn more about what Buddha taught, what Muhammad proclaimed, and what the Indigenous Grandmothers reveal?
3) Can we admit that our ability to learn is expansive?
4) Can it lead to mutual appreciation of one another’s spiritual and religious experiences?
Heartfelt openness to others will help us to understand each other instead of tempting us to kill one another. Perhaps that is the power we really need to seek.
If you seek peace, be still
If you seek wisdom, be silent
If you seek love, be yourself
PEACE FROM KNOWLEDGE
It is up to us to overcome the temptation
to be concerned only about our own problems;
we need to grow tender before the tragedies
of our World, to share its pain.
I was thinking about the World and my place in it. I want to do something grand to benefit the people who suffer the most. Why is the World so harsh? Why is meanness now so popular? We even find it in our politics and our practice of religion. I even heard some admire those who deliberately practice cruelty to promote their beliefs or policies.
There is enough suffering in the World. We must commit ourselves to the pathways of compassion, understanding, and forgiveness based on justice.
I heard someone say social justice is against Christianity! Was it not Jesus who said we must feed the hungry? Did not Isaiah call for the powerful and greedy to stop consuming the poor for their own gain and profit? Justice repairs the World, inviting us to be responsible for one another as best we can. Justice is the virtue by which we worship God and care for one another. Since we cannot be responsible for one another in isolation, we work together for the welfare and well-being of all.
Perhaps, we need to be “tender,” as Pope Francis encourages. His lovely message on the World Day of the Poor (33rd Sunday) touched my heart.
I often think doing something grand would be somewhat sensational. I am touched by the word “tenderness.” Maybe I could be more tender in all the affairs of life. Tenderness invites awareness of others and their hopes and longings. Tenderness invites gratitude. I am thankful for the opportunity to be tender. It takes courage to be tender. I must pray for the gift of courage.
I must practice tenderness when I meet someone for the first time or at any time. I must realize I am in the presence of someone whom God loves. May I have the courage to love who and what God loves.
I want to be tender to the Earth and the World around me. I am blessed to be here at this moment. Let me tenderly embrace the moment so I might listen to you, hear the song of the wind, and realize how blessed I am.
Think of the times in your life when someone was tender to you. How did you feel? Think of the times you were tender to someone else. May those moments bless you and encourage you at this moment when tenderness is so sorely needed.
Be tender to you and all you meet, Holy Community. Let us express gratitude to God for all the times we were tender. Let us pray for the courage to be tender all the time.
A slogan out there says, “Silence is golden!” It is quite insightful and worth considering. The Sages of Ancient times practiced silence as a way of living. Silence, of course, is deeply connected to hearing. I cannot hear another person unless I practice the virtue of silence. Our physical bodies portray this wisdom since we have two ears and one mouth. Perhaps we are to listen more than we speak. If we did so, what we say might be profound, heartfelt, and quite wise. Silence is not the same as not speaking. When we stop talking, we might be angry, withdrawn, or afraid. Silence is the willingness to hear another person becoming a vital part of their lives. In a word, silence savors the presence of another person.
Silence invites us to realize we are vital companions of the World around us. When we listen to the wind rushing through the trees, we hear the song of Nature singing in our souls. We might even experience the presence of God as we quietly walk in the meadows, stroll down a sidewalk, or peacefully sit in our chairs. Silence is receptivity. We can taste the wisdom of the moment in the silence.
Silence is the mother of justice. God is said to have heard the cry of the poor. So, as we quiet ourselves, we too will hear the cry of the poor touching our hearts and changing our lives. Think of any parent who ever raised a child. In the quiet of the night, the child’s cries are the rallying call for the parent’s love.
Lovers spend hours in silence. Once an elderly couple shared with me, they now travel the expanse of creation as they quietly hold one another’s hands dreaming each other’s dreams.
Even the notes of great music have moments of restful silence. Melody, harmony, and rhythm are all born from the quiet moments of a musical score.
There is a powerful story from the Taoist tradition about a man who entered a bird shop. Two parakeets were for sale. The one who could talk was on sale for one hundred dollars. The other, which could not speak, was five-hundred dollars. The perplexed inquired of the shopkeeper about the sense of such an arrangement. The shopkeeper peacefully explained, “Even though he cannot speak, he can ponder!”
We might do well to ponder. Children call it daydreaming. Older people call it snoozing. Everyone calls it love. When we ponder, we open our hearts to receive the blessings of the day and the gifts of other people. We might even find ourselves.
Blessings to you, Holy Community, for all the times you hear the song of the wind, the cry of the poor, and the voice in your heart.
The Parliament of the World Religions gathered on October 16, 2021, for a three-day meeting. The Zoom meeting attracted thousands of people from around the World. The Parliament began on September 11, 1893, when Swami Vivekananda invited religious leaders of diverse faith traditions to meet in the aftermath of the Chicago World’s Fair. The Parliament now meets every three years to foster peace, understanding, and compassion throughout the World.
The Parliament is blessed and fostered by the World’s great teachers and Spiritual leaders. Pope Francis, Patriarch Bartholomew, the Dalia Lama, and Karen Armstrong, to name a few, encouraged us with their wisdom and grace. The wealth of information is enormous and transformative.
What is most striking about this Interfaith gathering is the significant number of organizations throughout the World that have emerged in the midst of war, conflict, genocide, and terrorism dedicated to peace, understanding, and compassion. Thousands of people from every walk of life dedicate themselves to making this World a better place for now and future generations. Even if their efforts are not ultimately successful, no one can deny their dedication and commitment.
Several critical perspectives emerged in the course of the three-day meeting:
Contrary to the perspectives of Social Darwinism, the fittest among us is not the one driven by competition, power, and success. The evolutionary trend is in the direction of cooperation and behavior that is mutually beneficial, according to more and more social scientists. The quest for religious peace and understanding encourages this evolutionary development.
Second, the fusion of the religious (mystical) experience and the quest for justice (repair of the World) is dramatically emerging in the real-life experiences of people throughout the World. The ethic of compassion now typifies the purpose of devotion, ritual, and love for God. The Golden Rule is no longer seen as an ideal but a practical virtue essential for the survival of the World.
Third, humans are part of Nature and have a deep responsibility to live on Earth which is no less than our common home. The practical effect of this particular development is the quest for conciliation with the Indigenous peoples who have suffered genocide, displacement, and colonialization. Canada presents an excellent example of how a government and a Nation might make amends and reparation.
Fourth, religious communities are transcending themselves to be inclusive of others formerly thought to be enemies, outsiders, and heretics. What a joy it is to see Buddhists and atheists meditating together. How inspiring it was to probe the friendship of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalia Lama. The Grandmothers sang their songs of wisdom as little girls discovered their divine nature. All of us from every place on Earth were inspired by the courage of the Indigenous of the Amazon, who struggle against greed and power to save the Earth.
Finally, we cannot help but be touched by all these people of faith, spirituality, wisdom, and courage who give of themselves day by day and moment by moment.
Thank you, Holy Community, for giving of yourself. You are blessing the World in ways you might never know until you see your courage reflected in the courage of so many around the World.
WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD
We hear much lamenting these days about the state of the World. The daily grind of the News is more than enough to depress the most hopeful person. The human condition is one thing, but the relentless assaults of the forces of Nature are overwhelming. So, the fact that many people feel powerless, sad, and exhausted is quite understandable. Yet, it always surprises me that no matter how bad things get, there are always people who rise to the occasion with their optimism, guts, and courage to improve the World in any way they can.
I think of the countless people addressing the climate issue, the cause for human rights, and the poverty afflicting so many in our World. We do not need to look far to find people of all ages who give of themselves in the cause of what is right and just. Simply remembering such people brings hope to our struggling selves.
The great Buddhist Traditions remind us of the Bodhisattvas who delay their ultimate blessings for the sake of others. Such generosity of heart is a blessing in itself. Unfortunately, I often find myself seeking my own happiness at the expense of others. I delay responding to a message thinking I need my relaxation. I am tempted to think my response is not required or worthless. I can easily forget how important I might be in the life of another person.
As we consider the Faith Traditions of Humankind, we become aware once more of the great teachings inviting us to care for and love one another. Now, as I look out into the World around me, I pray to discover the love within me. Perhaps the time has come to stop thinking my happiness comes with wealth, security, and status. It takes so little to bless another person. It takes great courage to trust such efforts are worthwhile. I pray for the courage to practice understanding, compassion, and love for all those I meet.
Someone once said, “Do not let the madness around you become the World within you.” Let us pause at this moment to discover the World within our hearts.
When we are upset about the World around us, is this not a strong indication of our concern and love? We desire better for our World so all people may live in peace. Is this wishful thinking or the deep desire of our hearts? Either way, I will commit myself to make your wish come true, or your desire fulfilled. The wonderful thing about wishful thinking is the deep desire to bring compassion to others.
Blessings to you, Holy Community, for your concern, your love, your compassion, and your heart.
Who knows from whence this great creation sprang?
The Most High from whom all this great creation came?
Whether the Most High's will created or was mute,
The Most High seer that is in the highest heaven knows -
or perchance even the Most High knows not.
Rig Vedas 10: 129
There is an implicit humility to be found in the great Spiritual Traditions of Humankind. It is a sign of immaturity to think one Tradition knows everything absolutely. The Ultimate can never be mastered by the partial knowledge of any given Tradition.
If individual Spiritual Traditions could master the humility implicit in their Sacred Writings and Sacred Narratives, their people could rejoice in the splendor of it All.
As a person matures, they realize how much they might not know. This is "Holy Ignorance" which empowers one to be radically open to the wisdom of others.
Someone said, "Without borders, there is no Country." Nonetheless, borders must not be walls of exclusion but open doors of welcome. Strong walls create prisons. We must not become inmates based on fear and prejudice.
Physical barriers and walls are one thing. We must transcend the walls of our need to be right about everything. The Buddha reminded us to change our thoughts and beliefs in light of the discovery of truth as it unfolds. What I believe today may change tomorrow because I had the courage to meet you and learn from you. We had the courage to learn from one another.
The Jewish Tradition reminds us, "God loves stories so God made humankind." May our stories cause God to rejoice and us to live in peace.
I will embrace the diversity revealed in the Natural World.
I will embrace the diversity of the people around me.
I will foster peace through the humility of the heart.
I do not know everything and my ignorance is holy.
I am radically open to the wisdom of others who are my companions in life.
I will humbly and lovingly share my wisdom with others.
I will practice the joy of humility in every moment of my life.