Tragedy often makes us focus the lens of our hearts on the wrong fixed point. What happened to us on January sixth was so tragic that many are filled with fear about the future of our nation. Fear is the wrong focal point for us who are believers. Fear convinces us that we are at the end of our story, democracy will ultimately end in anarchy, God has given up on us, and we must be suspicious, alert, and defensive of anyone who thinks differently or feels differently. Fear obscures the beauty of creation from us. We look at the distance and all we see is danger, menace, terror, and conflict. And we become so focused on that menacing focal point that we fail to see the nurse who has worked seven fourteen-hour shifts this week, without a day off, under very difficult circumstances. And she does this not because she is afraid of losing her job but because she loves the people she serves, and she feels deeply in her heart that it is her duty to alleviate all the suffering she sees around her. Fear obscures the story of the tireless teacher managing sophisticated technology for which he was not educated or trained so that his students may learn from home, classroom, or homeless tent. And he does this not because he is getting rich doing it, but because he feels this is a vocation worth sacrifice and remarkable commitment. Fear obscures the police officers who had to show up at work after one of their own was killed in the Pentagon and another committed suicide soon after. And he or she does this because they are protectors, and our democracy needs to be protected. Fear blinds us to the reality of inspiring altruism, in the face of unspeakable pain.
Hope is the antidote to fear and it is fueled by love. This should be the focal point for us now. Hope that God will raise the types of leaders our democracy needs to heal and thrive. Hope that reconciliation will soon end division, and respect will replace suspicion. Hope that love will win the day in due time, as we become aware that God has not left us orphaned. Hope that all Americans will show the world the altruism and civility of which we are capable and will commit ourselves to peace and service. Hope that Christians everywhere will chose to be peacekeepers and will reject the tempting pull of radicalization, whether on the left or on the right. Hope that the Church will reject and avoid the pull of self-interested partisanship and begin to work together for the betterment of humanity. Hope that God will make his will clearly known to people everywhere, so that his “peace which surpasses all understanding may keep our minds and hearts in the knowledge and love of God and his Son, Jesus Christ.” Hope that our best days are yet to come, and that God is in control of history.
I know this type of hope sounds naïve and impossible. I believe deeply that hope should be our focal point at this moment of crisis, but this hope must be fueled by love. What this means is that this is an active hope that prays hard and works hard to realize its deepest aspirations. It is not enough to want peace; we must pray and work for peace because we love our neighbors as ourselves. It is not enough to speak about civility; we must pray for civility and endeavor to be civil in our treatment of others because we believe that Christian love is more powerful than being right about our political positioning. It is not enough to aspire to live in a united country; we must pray and work for unity in our homes, communities, and nation. Hope fueled by love is an active concept and I believe it is our only way out. Radicalism is a failure of imagination: We stop imagining how things could be, and progressively begin to create the hell we imagine ourselves to be in. Radicalization is faithlessness: We imagine an absentee God who no longer controls our history, and in the name of such a God we take matters into our hands and seek to change history by force. Radicalization is inhumanity: We begin to see the world in terms of “us and them” and convince ourselves that “the other” is to be blamed for our pain and unhappiness. Radicalization makes friends into enemies and convinces us that we alone are the arbiters of all truth.
We are baptized Christians and we live by faith and hope, and not by fear. It is time for us to hope, pray in faith, and love. These are active verbs, which means that it is time for us to work for peace, unity, and civility. These are the vows we made at our baptism.
I now leave you with the beautiful words of Chaplain Blaire Rowell, one of our parishioners, “We are meant to be so much more than this, this bickering. We were brought to the manger to be reminded of what is really important, what is true Power. It is Love. We can have our various viewpoints and still love. We can still be reminded in this Great Experiment to heal ourselves and then heal the world with Love's help. We can't do it from here. We must recognize we are the same, we need each other. There are many instances of that happening every day. Mike Rowe's Returning the Favor (Television Show. See Here) is just one reminder of this. Having gone through Covid, when so many have not made it through, I feel fortunate. I have been reminded to ask why I am here. We must find Forgiveness. Anger is a reaction to pain or fear. I must grieve my losses. Fear has no place here... ‘Perfect love casts out fear.’ This division does not serve us; it only serves Fear and Pain. From my heart... Blaire.”
May God continue to bless you,