On Fear & Prayer
As people of faith we pray, reflect, and act when we are afraid. Like most of you I am worried, confused, terrorized while also experiencing a certain degree of numbness around instances of gun-violence in our country and abroad. The statistics are staggering in confirming that gun-violence has now become normal.
As a person of faith, I pray. We all could benefit from praying especially during these times of deep sorrow when ordinary people are terrorized by violent actions of terrorism. These instances of violence transcend religion, ethnicity and nationality. They all have some rootedness in anger that is channeled in destructive ways. Whenever anger is not channeled in a constructive manner I believe it leads to expressions of violence that are usually irreversible. So along with praying, we can do some soul-work in engaging and overcoming our unresolved anger.
I find Jesus’ teaching of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5 or Luke 6) helpful in that it gets to the root of human proclivity to react in equal and opposite ways. Such a tendency could alter our inner identity when provoked negatively. Jesus picks on the violence of poverty (material or spiritual), grief, pride, normalized unrighteousness, unmerciful dealings, coercion, persecution, insulting behavior, etc., as human provocations. These reactions, broadly speaking, are about vengeful attitudes and behaviors directed toward those who inflict these if not directly, then indirectly, if not promptly, then eventually, if not personally, then with the help of a collective.
This is how normal human tendencies are understood in the classic “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” line of belief and behavior. Jesus invited his followers to do soul work by reversing this manner of normalized behavior. He pointed to a better way. This better and blessed way was to reflect and appropriate a significant value of the kingdom of God that our Baptismal covenant names: dignity of every human being. Usually, when I hear “dignity of every human being” I think of someone else. However, I believe here it is an invitation to appropriate this gift as my dignity before it gets to the dignity of any other human being. It is like the oxygen mask in an aircraft emergency that I am asked to wear before attempting to help anyone else. This practice of blessedness is best lived out when it is authentically aligned with me first. The beatitudes are about this blessedness; the blessedness that my dignity comes from God, which nothing and nobody can take away. Only I can be ultimately responsible for preserving or changing the climatic state of my blessedness. Community can help or exacerbate, but it is my responsibility to steward my soul-identity that my dignity comes from God and that this cannot be provoked by anything, real or fantasized, to “lose it.”
There are no easy answers to some of the realities of our time, and yet, we have resources that are spiritual, psychological, and congregational (our gathering to support one another) to help navigate these troubled waters. In these times of fear and anxiety, Jesus invites us to guard our inner sanctum from becoming victim to the climate of fear and scapegoating around us. I invite you to gather with friends in your homes and towns to sing, pray and reflect on who we are as children of God. I am going to City Sing on December 20 at 4 PM - an interfaith opportunity to gather and sing about peace and unity as a multi-faith family in the city of Rochester.
On a personal note, we wish to thank all those who have expressed concern for our family in our hometown of Chennai, which is slowly recovering after torrential rains unprecedented in a hundred years. Our family is fine under the circumstances. However, the poor, especially Dalits, have been affected many times over. Please continue to pray for the people of my beloved city in India. If you wish to support the ongoing relief and development efforts you could by designating donations to Chennai flood relief: http://www.episcopalrelief.org/disasterresponsefund-1
May this Advent draw us to a greater dependence on God and each other as we ponder, wait, and move with expectation and approach the gift of the Christ who is being born within us and in all places of impoverishment! Remember, the Lord is near!
Your servant in Christ, the Blessed one!