A Gift–A Sign

In the last two months, I have been doing a lot of work in our church and community for peace and justice issues. Last month, I taught four sessions on the Nonviolence of Jesus in our church. I presented a day of reflection on Walking with Jesus, Micah, and Gandhi for our vicariate. I am currently teaching four sessions on living nonviolently in the Institute for Continuous Learning at Young Harris College.
Ever since Father John Dear inspired Joan and I to become followers of the nonviolent Jesus and the God of Peace in a retreat at Kirkridge, I have been slowly (too slowly at times) growing in my understanding of the Gospel of Peace. Presently, I have come to understand that nonviolence is a way of life which demands total commitment. It is not a tactic for getting what you want. It is not a technique. It is a WAY OF LIFE. To put it another way, Gandhi’s satyagraha (nonviolence, or better “truth force”) is getting up close and very personal. Gandhi’s entire life was An Experiment in Truth.
Several months ago, I realized that I must return to and be faithful to some form of contemplation in order to center and ground myself in the God of Peace. One cannot be an activist for peace and justice if one is not grounded in the God of peace. It matters not whether it is centering prayer, the Ignatian method, or walking meditation. On some days, one method works better than the other. Silence is the first language of the God of Peace. We need to come into that silence and listen to the God of Peace. In the reality of God at the deepest level of our being, we rest assured of God’s unconditional love. We are also very much aware of Thomas Keating’s wonderful teaching that, as we let go of what comes up, the Divine Healer is at work. Our false selves are being transformed into our true selves in the depths of the Silence of God. The God of Peace is hard at work healing the still wounded child within.
Reading Diarmuid Ó Murchú, I have come to realize that the most basic capability of the human person is the ability to relate. The ability to relate. Biblically, justice is also about the ability to relate and right order and right relationships. We are here to relate, to build relationships, to secure justice.
Alice Miller, the Swiss psychologist, reminds us of the lingering effects of childhood abuse. Spankings, belt whippings, physical and emotional blows cripple us until we deal with them. Unable to rebel against the pedagogy of violence designed to bring about compliance and submission, we internalize the anger and rage. History repeats itself as parents raise their children the way they were raised. On the socio-political level, the oppressed become the oppressors. And on and on until the deadly spiral is broken. Only then can nonviolence emerge as a reality.
Then, I have rediscovered Thich Nhat Hahn, the revered Vietnamese Buddhist teacher of peace. As with Christian forms of contemplation, his method of mindfulness helps us grow the true self. He encourages us to practice mindfulness in breathing, mindfulness in walking, mindfulness in eating. The Israelis and Palestinians who come to Plum Village, his retreat center in France, do not sit down and start talking about their differences and grievances. They spend most of their time learning how to be mindful. Only when they are grounded in mindfulness do they come together to tell their stories and resolve their differences.
I am always amazed about the gifts we receive when we embark on a journey of faith—a journey into the richness and depths of the God of Peace. Nonviolence is a way of life. It is a journey. It is never ending. I no longer speak about living nonviolently. I speak about living more nonviolently.
Finally, I received a gift today. I was reading Megan McKenna’s book, The Hour of the Tiger, and came across a discussion of the healing of the woman with the 12-year hemorrhage. Putting myself in that scene via the Ignatian method, I reached out, touched Jesus,i and asked for inner healing. Then, I decidedt was time to reconnect with creation. I also found out that God is still giving us signs and wonders. As I was walking barefooted across the wet morning grass in my backyard, I heard a sound. I look up and saw a magnificent deer bounding and leaping freely through the wheat field below the house. The Divine Lover, the stag of The Song of Songs, was bounding before my eyes. Leaping in freedom, the deer told me that I am being set free to leap in the kindom of the God of Peace. What a gift from the Divine Healer! Praise God!

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