… it does. There are no answers, just more questions. I sit here, writing this reflection just hours after a terrible event has reshaped our identity. We are not the same people we were yesterday, or perhaps we are but we can no longer hide behind a wall and pretend things are better. A car bomb; a journalist; a life ended; a voice silenced. A country shaken, changed: even if just for a moment. The wall has been bombed and we are faced with our darkness.
These moments create a vacuum in our lives. Perhaps for a minute, or an evening, or a day, we stop and take a moment to reflect. Many of us feel angry, critical of the world we belong to, one in which darkness creeps about unnoticed. Others feel like something needs to happen, so we begin to fill the void by brainstorming what can be done. Others give up hope, accepting that we live in a world that is so much darker than we make it out to be. How long does this last before we crawl back up on our sofa and carry on with our daily lives, coexisting with the darkness, pretending it isn’t there? How long till a new wall goes up in the midst of the rubble?
Perhaps until the next metro bombing or suicide attack. Perhaps until the next hundred or so die at sea. Perhaps until we can find another government to accuse of human rights abuses, or corruption, at least for a couple of days. The same pattern seems to emerge every time: event, shock, outcry, silence. Ironically, it’s easier to ignore the darkness when we close our eyes and become a part of it. So once again we lose ourselves in our #notinmyname, and #lestweforget. We feel that through our public outrage, we have done our part and we continue on to the next devastating event.
This reflection is the fruit of a very messy experience. It is political, economic, social, humanitarian, emotional, and so many other things. The bottom line is that it is uncomfortable, because none of us want to admit to ourselves that change is going to take so much work, that it’s easier to just look away.
What do we do when we think it cannot get worse? It’s times like this that I consider my faith both comforting and terrifying. This is the point where many, simply because I have mentioned faith, will stop reading. Our prejudices and our conflicts stop us from going a step further. They stop us from understanding that although what comes next may involve Scripture, it is so, so much deeper than religion and culture. It is about humanity.
My faith is a faith of peace, of mercy and of love, and that I am convinced of. It is a faith of humanity. We have seen too many people fighting evil wars, with religion as an excuse. And we don’t have to look to Crusades and Al’Qaeda, or Al Shabaab, and ISIS to confirm this. In my opinion, we should look a little closer. On the other hand, we are so concerned with the concept of ‘to each his own,’ that we confuse peace, mercy and love with being doormats. A quote that comes to mind is from Matthew 5: 39-42, which states,
But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
Highly misinterpreted and taken out of context, this passage is often used as an excuse for inaction. I would invite us to read another passage, just a couple of verses above (Matthew 5: 13), that really describes our role as Christians:
You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
What a beautiful image. Among the many purposes of salt, is that of healing. For those of you who have never washed a wound with salt water, beneficial as it may be, it is also very painful. Our peace, our mercy, our love; they are all beneficial, but sometimes painful.
We are living on a wounded street, in a wounded village, a wounded country, a wounded world. Our call is not to be the doormat, welcoming the darkness into our home, but to bring healing to the darkest of places. A healing that is painful and life-giving, both for ourselves and for others. It is a healing that is uncomfortable and unpopular. This is NOT optional. Salt that is no longer salty is thrown out.
So to my fellow Catholic who finds himself in this vacuum, even if just for a minute, what are we going to do just when we thought it couldn’t get worse? I take this even further – to and address it to my fellow human. What is proposed here might come from a Catholic tradition, but it is really universal, human. What can I do to stand against the darkness? Let’s be the salt. In the words of my favourite person, who stared darkness and despair in the face on a daily basis, “if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other” – Mother Teresa. How can we even begin to tackle that?
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
So my challenge today, such a dark day: to fight with love, to fight with peace and to fight with mercy. Our world is filled with darkness – with disagreement, hatred, division. I wonder what would happen if we all stopped hanging on to the things that divide us, and started to fight for the things that unite us? I pray that we would really live like the purifying salt we were meant to be, for a little longer than a couple of days.