Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Let it be

Daitoku-Ji, Kyoto
Photograph by Lee van Laer

I had a European reader email me the other day. 

They took offense at my post suggesting that we (The United States, that is) or anyone else ought to take in far more refugees from the Syrian war—and, by extension, I suppose, refugees of any "strange, foreign" culture whatsoever who wish to enter our society as they flee the various kinds of violence that afflict so many smaller and less stable countries.

I suppose we can all sympathize to some extent with such sentiments; after all, we all fear one another — fear is what much of our daily lives is based on. 

Yet it isn't good enough; compassion and mercy, if we want them to express themselves in our own lives and through us, as vehicles of the divine, have to risk something. 

It isn’t, after all, safe to be compassionate; it isn't safe to be merciful. There are always forces and individuals who will take advantage of it, and use these things to destructive ends of their own.

Yet the whole point of compassion and mercy, I think, is that they are willing to take those risks; and they know that we can and must appeal to a greater good in ourselves, no matter how low others may sink.

One cannot dispense compassion and mercy by the teaspoonful; it isn't enough. In the same way, a man or a woman can't drink God by the teaspoonful; one takes in the whole thing or nothing whatsoever.

Christ can't be crucified halfway; his sacrifice has to be whole and complete. One nail is not enough; the nails have to go into all His hands and feet. Even that isn't enough. He has to be pierced by a sword and cut by thorns; and then He has to die. There are no teaspoons full of sacrifice dosed here; it is the whole bottle, all of it. That's how we have to drink God — to drink compassion, to drink mercy—by drinking the whole bottle, knowingly sacrificing ourselves on behalf of the better forces in the world.

It's not so easy.

Of course, I say the better forces in the world; but what I mean is the better forces in the universe, because the better forces are not of this world. Manifesting on our own level, in the selfish way we all operate, we don't, for the most part, represent the better forces; we fall prey to lower ones, the ones that would own for themselves, be greedy, and destroy. We even, I think, mostly want to be greedy and own even God for ourselves. We therefore — metaphorically, and only within ourselves, mind you, but it is still this way — destroy God as well.

I guess my point here is, we can't take the world, and then take a little bit of this, a little bit of that, taking only the parts we like; no, we have to take the whole world, and all that's in it, good and bad — and then dare to be loving

I suppose, as individuals and societies, we mostly don't dare to be loving; we fear giving things up, taking risks, because we somehow believe that we can keep everything — that we are immortal and can get, and have. 

We don't, I think, see that we have to risk everything and be willing to die to ourselves in order to become real for ourselves and for others.

In a way, I suppose the task the world has imposed upon us is impossible. We have to take all the good and the bad of the world in whole and at once, not by the teaspoonful; and in doing so, we are like a hero who has to drink poison in order to be able to overcome its effects; a foolhardy idea indeed. A foolhardy deed indeed. 

Yet that is what must be done; I have to take everything, as it is, and then dare to love, knowing that I will fail. That takes a peculiar kind of courage; and, again, that special quality of intelligence, a spiritual intelligence, which calls me so deeply—yet asks so much of me that I am, quite frankly, terrified by it. 

We will all fail each other; it's in our nature. Yet in my own experience there is one love that never fails, and that is the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of Mary and of God. 

That love is forever here, present, and uncorrupted; and no matter how much I fail others or they fail me — we will all do this to each other, in our sorrow, our suffering, our struggle, and our pain — I know I can rely on that inner support from God and all of His heavenly Angels to come and bless me, and all of us, in our times of trouble.

For some reason, this reminds me of John Lennon's beautiful song, Let It Be. 

He sensed something true and real there. He was a man in rebellion, struggling with the darkest Angels of the soul — as we hear in his lyrics and see from his life — and yet he knew, in his heart of hearts, that mother Mary would come to him saying, "Let It Be."


Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

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