Sticks in a bundle cannot be broken.
Bundled – a baby is wrapped securely creating a sense of safety, wheat is gathered and bound to be shared with all who are hungry, the wounded are firmly bandaged to bring comfort and healing.
When communities are bundled – people safely care for one another, people freely feed one another, people pray and listen and work until all are whole.
Could it happen? Does it happen?
(Art from Ascetic Experience)
“The problem is that you think you are separate from others.”
We build high walls and lock heavy doors. These are to be fortresses of protection (we are told). Protection of our independence and solutions for our safety – our privacy – our rights – our way of living. They are fortresses built from our egos and will only stand strong through our insecurities.
These high walls and heavy doors will be reinforced with attitudes of arrogance, distrust and fear. We have been conditioned to believe that individual rights come first. Rights created for My Independence, My Privacy, My Best Interest. With this attitude, we sweep all that belongs to us and ONLY us into a ever growing pile – staking claim and standing guard with semi-automatic guns set (that we own as it is our right).
What is the purpose? In the long run what will we really have? These high walls and locked doors create an illusion that we can remain untouched by this world, our world which is now overcome with fear and need. Far be it from us to live by example offering encouragement to those in need through community and compassion. To consider this would require our heavy doors be open and walls pulled apart creating windows and swinging gates.
Dare we think this way of living is truly an option?!! Dare we chose to ignore the stranger approaching our shore, our city, our street, our very door.
We must wake up. These walls will not stand tall forever, the locks will crumble from rust and lack of use. The fortress will fall leaving us to realize that all the lifestyle and protection we believed was our right has ended as a selfish and dangerous dream.
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. (Isaiah 60:1)
I really like this portrayal of the Magi given to us by the artist, He Qi. These three kings look to be resting so peacefully. During this time of angel visits and instructions through dreams, there is a sense of awakening but no fear. Ideas are planted and their deep trust in the signs and wonders of their own faith tradition encourage them to pack for adventure and follow the prophetic star.
It is Epiphany – a time when we hear stories of innocence and evil. A child free from guilt is born and ‘angels in their joy dance across the sky with song’. Good news is sent to shepherds and visions to kings far to the East. The earth is electric with hope and celebration.
But as always the story is balanced with other reactions. The ruling Roman king, Herod, does not find this birth good news but a threat. He would turn the joyful moments into horror killing small boys as an act of ultimate insecurity.
Something about this story feels painfully familiar. Our world today is filled with examples of horrible actions taken due to insecurity and greed. So how do we recognize the news from angels in our dreams and live in hope?
Isaiah’s prophetic wisdom reminds us that through darkness light shines. We hear his cry, ‘Arise, shine for your light has come.’ This is a call to action. We must carry that light like a candle needing shelter in the wind. For it is still a young flame and it’s earthly protectors are still forming family.
When the kings and shepherds have returned to their homes, we are still here, present as this young family begins a risky journey to Egypt so to hide in safety until they can return to their own land and make home.
It is Epiphany. A time of enlightenment and honor. Like those wise ones from the East, may we pay attention to our surroundings and nurture our own faith-in-practice.
(Grateful thanks is given for the inspiration shared by John Foley S. J.)
As this week moves toward its end, I can not help but reflect on the state of our country. So out of touch – we have created enormous distractions that allow us to ignore the most basic needs before us. The rhetoric is filled with anger, dishonesty and contempt. And this is before I even begin to mention the political environment.
The weekend will soon call many of us to come together in our respective faith communities. Are these places where we find sacred time and space to re-member and renew our commitments to journey this life in faith and care for one another. Our children and youth watch and model what they experience from the adults in their midst. We are all bombarded – including the youngest among us – with negative attitudes and actions when we enter the world. How do we stay focused on our commitment to bring light in the darkest places? How do we guide our children to live with hope as their compass?
As people of faith, we have an opportunity to show a different way of living in this world. A way filled with compassion and concern for the good of all people – that the most basic of need is made available and community is created where everyone has a part in its vitality and purpose. May this be something we consider as we enter our holy places. May we take time to share our thoughts and prayers as we seek ways to live our faith, our call to bring good news where none has been heard in a very long time.
Below I share this prayer in hopes that it will bring insight and therefor action. It is written and offered from an amazing community called Iona, placed on an island (isle) in Scotland.
From “50 New Prayers From the Iona Community“:
God in whose love we are made,
When bread is before us
Remind us of the hungry.
When our key is in our door
Remind us of those who have no home.
When we enjoy the opportunities of money in our pockets
Remind us of those who only know poverty.
When the laughter of friendship fills our hearing
Remind us of those who know only loneliness.
When the love of our family keeps us safe
Remind us of those whose family was the place of their pain.
When we wonder what it is we can do,
Remind us that you said:
‘Whenever you feed the hungry, clothes the naked,
welcome the stranger, visit the prisoner,
you do it to me.’
May prayer feed our actions
and may our actions
feed the world.