When Love is Absent

When love is absent
we are not our fullest

at best we are divided,
at worst we are fragmented.

Shame,
guilt,
oppression,
poverty--
of the monies
and of the soul--

strife,
greed,
loneliness,
perfection,
rage,
envy,
control,
pride

fill the soundless void.

When love is absent
we are at best something
and at worst nothing.


This editorial is a reflection
on

when love is absent,
calling and inviting us to
(a) notice the injustices around us,
(b) gently become aware of our own woundedness within,
(c) offer, acknowledge, and ask for help from the Love that fills
and
(d) ask how best we can then love.


Jessie

"Justice cannot be brought to a society until there are just men; and men cannot be just until they are healed of the hurts and wounds of the past." - Francis MacNutt, o.p. Healing, p. 28, 1974

I once asked the cops why they were moving peaceful citizens who were not in the way of traffic and telling them (or yelling at them) to get out.  The man paused, retracted the parts of his lips where the edges met, and then said (and I quote): "We don't want them to have bugs crawling on them.  There can be bugs down here."  Right around that time and down the hallway, there was an explosive roar.  I automatically looked over to see the commotion:  an officer shouted so thunderously that the young man sleeping literally jumped right up to standing, in a dazed attention.  I am guessing it was because a spider happened to be on him and the officer was being kind to and protective of this sleeping citizen.

A public shoreline "open to all" (only during business hours).

If one reads in between the lines, what is not allowed is homelessness (and of course, any raves that would naturally happen right outside corporate offices on a narrow pathway).

A week after taking the above photo, I noticed new fixtures to the benches.  I also experienced that the usual herd of motorized vehicles patrolling the safe area did not pass by me (or the software engineers) that day.  Note: these six scooters ridden by uniformed men were not "disabled motorized vehicles" as the rules state are the exception.

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"We must rapidly begin—we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Beyond Vietnam" address, April 4, 1967, assassinated one year later

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The Greatest Good to the Least Deserving
 

'"On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour.' (1 Corinthians 12:22-23a).

When one reads the New Testament carefully, one cannot but be impressed by its very different vision of life. It almost seems as if things are upside-down. Sinners rather than the “righteous” are justified. The rich are sent away empty-handed. The outcasts of society are welcomed to the banqueting table. Despised minority groups such as the Samaritans are held up for their exemplary behaviour. Those that the law demands be punished are forgiven. The poor are called blessed, and the strong are the weak. It is all so different to what we would normally expect.

Our values suggest quite the opposite. The rich sit at the feasting table. The “good” succeed. Those that are socially acceptable are held up as deserving respect and emulation. The strong win, and the weak are downtrodden.

Some say that Jesus’ ethic and vision of life was naive; certainly unworkable in our complex and pragmatic society, they claim. Others believe that Jesus ethic was only for the interim. It was for those awaiting the appearance of the kingdom of God in its fullness. It has no relevance for us who live in an age after the kingdom “failed” to arrive.

The challenge for us, however, is to take these seemingly upside-down ideas of Jesus seriously and attempt to live them out. Peace and reconciliation can achieve greater good than anger and retaliation. Serving the weak enriches the server, and God’s wisdom is often with the childlike and humble, rather than the proud and ostentatious.

It is important to remember, however, that living by the words and actions of Jesus will not necessarily mean success. At least not in the way we normally measure it. Instead, success is learning to live in the hope that while you appear to be losing, you are in fact gaining ground. It is believing that in the struggle of learning the art of relinquishment, you are receiving all things." - Charles R Ringma, Life in Full Stride: Faith-Stretching Reflections for Christians in the Real World (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 2004), pp.189-190.

(a) What injustices do you notice around you where you live?
(b) Are you able to gently become aware of your own compulsions within?
(c) What stops you from caring for society or yourself?
(d) Do you have the courage and self-love to invite Jesus in to heal them?
(e) How can we be radically hospitable to others?

xo

P. S. Last night, I read Psalm 103 written by David (1040–970 BC).  Including some snippets here.  A few editorial and translational comments first to help our modern or wounded ears:

1. Read 'who fear' as 'who are in awe of' or 'who have reverence for'
2. Read 'transgressions' as 'emotional woundedness'
3.  Understand that 'his covenant' is summarized in: Loving this god and others as yourself
4.  The phrases referenced have been italicized in the text below

The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
...
He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our
iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above
the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear
him;

as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
...
so the LORD has compassion on those who
fear
him;

for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower in the
field;

the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD'S love is with those who fear
him,
and his righteousness with their
children's children--

with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

In other words, in a world where we are about ourselves (inherently acting out of our woundedness), we create a world reflecting ourselves (that is, a society operating out from those emotional contours and compulsions at a high-level).  In the face of this which leads to the inevitable oppression of others (in the workplace or on the streets; in family life or in society), I have come to know that there is a god that doesn't abandon me or us even in the midst of regimes of power and dominance, ignorance or strife that I find in person and society.  In other words, this god is personal and relational and I can go this god for help (not as an escape).

Macnutt, King, Ringma, and David essentially link the illness of society to the illness of our hearts--and that if we desire a healthy nation, we must first become healthy persons.  David goes so far to express how to do this:  connect to the God of Love and if we own our ways, we will be able to once again, feel God's love for us; be transformed and shaped anew; receive mercy and feel warm compassion.  Be forgiven so great that it is incomprehensible.  And then, we are to do likewise: love others with this Love, being empowered by this Love, because we have been Loved.