I’m pretty sure that law and the concept of sin and consequences were created to try to help us live in the groups we need to survive and prosper. Society is a two edged sword. It keeps us from having to do everything for ourselves from fighting off wildlife, planting, harvesting, to creating clothes and shelter, thus giving us time to think, create, explore, and ask questions about the why, not just the how. But, since humanity is a work in progress…..the old adage, that there’s both a goody and a baddy to everything, holds true for society. Society helps us survive physically, but it also challenges us to learn to love.
The commandments were first of all, simply practical. The laws were aimed at keeping us alive, both as individuals and humanity, long enough to become loving. Whatever the Intelligence called God is, that created and nourishes life, it lives within each of us. It is a source of grace to become more loving, than competitive and combative. And we are like cells in a body. Each of us not only affects those closest to us, we affect the whole for better or worse, even the generations following us.
Self-honesty and understanding, rather than guilt, are the beginning of learning to love. And those take courage and grace. The divorce rate makes it obvious we haven’t become enough like Jesus to even love those closest to us, never-the-less those different from us or even “against” us. The commandments are the basic tools of survival for society. But, Jesus showed us the next level through teaching and living the spirituality of the Beatitudes. They call us beyond the fundamentals of the Commandments and just survival. They call us to freedom, the freedom to love others.
Caring is prayer. Prayer is in the intention, whether expressed in words, thoughts, feelings, candles, symbols, acts of kindness, or forgiveness. There is power in prayer. But both wisdom and love are needed to use the power for others, to understand that all creation, without exception, is one.
Jesus is a turning point in humanity’s journey. He fleshed out a love that sacrifices for not only the weakest physically, but the weakest spiritually. This is not survival of the fittest.
His resurrection also illustrated that this life span isn’t all there is. Jesus is the living example of the potential of God’s grace even within our own humanity.
His resurrection shows us death is simply a door to eternity. When we believe this, it gives us a very different value system than death as the finish line. And His openness and love for all show us the way to overcome the finality of death.
In my seventy-eight years of life I have held the hands of those I love as they died, I have lived to walk again after years of a crippling condition, survived to laugh again after scary strokes, and suffered enough prolonged pain to free me to embrace the relief of death. And I have, in turn, been freed by each of these to experience greater joy in living.
One of the gifts of age is learning not to take the smallest beauty, kindness, insight, or experience of love for granted. I can see the door from here, which reminds me daily that this moment may be the last of life as I know it now. Yet knowing that life’s greatest mystery lies on the other side of that door gives an aura of light around its darkness.
Though I realize that getting through that door may be terribly hard, sometimes I imagine all my atoms, with my spirit now one with the Spirit of All within them, being freed from the limits of my body to join in the dance of eternity. I can almost feel them shooting off joyously into the farthest embraces of the exquisite glory of pure beauty, truth, and love…..in other words, God.
I once heard a priest say, “Passion(suffering), death, and resurrection should all be one word.”
Somehow most of us in America have bought into the delusion that life is just for fun. And any discomfort, never-the-less suffering, starts us looking desperately for escapes.
Unfortunately, escapes can’t protect us from suffering forever, they just make us miss the meaning that can be found by embracing the whole of life.
I have always been a devout coward and have used many escapes over the years.
But finally, I began to realize that the greatest suffering would be to get to the end of my life and realize that I had missed the point.
I always start Lent early. When the cold, grey days of January set in, I hibernate and look inward to try to scrape a little of the spiritual mold off my soul. I seem to be on nature’s calendar rather than a liturgical one.
Sometimes it’s hard to dig my way out of my burrow again. But the first sign of daffodils bravely struggling up to the light is my personal sign of hope. (My blog post, Sign of Hope, tells why.)
This week the daffodils in my yard are almost all the way up. And it really has been a lovely grace filled week.
And as I write this, the raindrops are clinging to the bare tree branches outside my windows. That’s another of my favorite spirit lifting graces. Here’s something I wrote years ago to describe the sense of our circle of life that this always brings me.
Fat raindrops glisten
On bleak winter branches,
In pregnant suspense.
But earth’s silent call
Comes bursting their bubbles
The world weeps at endings,
Reluctant to admit
That nothing lasts forever,
Not even death.
For each dying teardrop Becomes a rainbow celebration of the sun’s rebirth.