Tonight, Ukraine is being bombarded by Russia, and the world is watching and waiting, wanting peace and struggling with the unsatisfied need. All over the world, individual stories are folded within conflicts and tragedies, cultures and nations, one more unthinkable than the last. And here, safe and comfortable, the conscience of our country is aroused again around the issues of injustice, violence and inequality. Sensitivity to the realities of global community is a step in empathy, a step towards action. And during the week of the celebration of both St. Joseph and St. Patrick, it seems more than appropriate.
First, each man did not confine their definition or understanding of God to what was familiar. Each sensed a direction, a possibility, and moved towards that light, followed that direction. It points to the reality of God’s “messaging”, movement, within each of us. Each bore the consequences of their choices and decisions, and each left a narrative that begs for the illumination of detail and so relevance to our lives. Opening the heart to this means allowing God to be God and permitting ourselves to be the flawed yet beloved humans that we are.
It is easy to confine God to our own worlds and the routes of our brain synapses, to forget the very definiton of God means something quite other than human. But there are a plethora of concepts if we choose to explore them: Dr. Walter Capps of UCSB supposed that God could manifest multiple ways in a variety of cultures yet still be one God and geenrated hours of discussion with students and scholars. There were contemplative monastics who wondered about the emphasis on the priesthood in Catholicism and if perhaps, God’s intent was not as patriarchal since, in fact, both men and women exist and cultural mores may have conspired to subjugate one to the other. Going further, these women wondered if the significance of the sacraments would find strength in sharing. Is not the grace of a sacrament present in sharing with one another? Can we not grant the beauty of grace and kindness,community and forgiveness to one another? Can we not remind one another of Other? Of God?
Isn’t that actually, what Joseph and Patrick were able to do? They found a way to honor the whispered vocie of God, to respond and make a difference in the lives of others. Each broke with convention; each acted with love and blazed an unexpected trail. In different centuries, each embodied an unlikely courage and a conscious fidelity to responding to the impulse of a gentle God. Each provides the example and reassurance that the reality of God does not belong to them alone but to each human being. Goodness is alive in the world; Joseph, Patrick and so many of us can be and are evidence of that.
The destruction of Ukraine and the cruelties visited on so many people in so many parts of the world is not a manifestation of that goodness. Beyond the screech of the missiles and beneath the horror of the rubble are the visible signs of strength and goodness: the kindness of strangers, the welcome of refugees, the courage of those who resist the aggressor.