To believe

There is a certain discord in shifting norms, levels of substantiative social change accelerated by some and excoriated by others. And in the flush of the energy around all that, the swirl of questions and the certainty of necessity, there rests the very ordinary persons who live it all out in their daily choices and decisions. We are engulfed in it now in tangible expressions and vibrant and public expressions of what was once private and personal. The various layers of change are visible in social media debates, surveillance and intelligence leaks, phone usage and habits, demonstrations and protests, court cases and decisions, online and virtual encounters. There is fuel for it in the voracious desire for self-care, comfort and ease. We have become skeptical at best of the social institutions that once held the many threads of our communities together; we are forging a new world without the perceived strictures of the past. And yet, we are not quite sure what to believe, or who or why. Perhaps we are not very different than those who have gone before us, those who struggled to name and identify what they believed and so to act in accord with that vision and those values. Maybe, if allowed, the Gospel is actually a mirror to be seen and learned from.

This past week, listening to a short speech on the Buddhist teaching of inter-being, I was struck by its resonance with the reality of Christian life, of following the simplicity of the Gospel mandates in living with self and others. Each is a compelling invitation to look at both the significance and beauty of self as well as the significance and beauty of others, of the world around us. Each invites us to a trust that is sustained by the elasticity of perception and the possibilities for curiosity and acceptance. Each is a reminder of personal fragility and brokenness as well as personal power and forgiveness. Most of all, each is an invitation beyond the frenetic and frantically shifting norms to the deeper meaning of existence and a full appreciation for the evolving complexities of human existence.

Such was Jesus’ invitation to Mary Magdalene, to the disciples, in the days following his death and resurrection. He placed before them a choice, a decision: to believe what was experienced or to reject it as outlandish. In the tumult of life under Rome within a tight-knit subculture, he dared them to break out. He provided multiple instances for them to take the chance, to take up the message and the mission. He charged them to pass it on, and he even hinted at how resistant people would be. He also assured them of His constancy, His own mercy. And so He asked them to extend that to others.

Lingering with the readings on Divine Mercy, there is the clear sense that we are above all, a communal people. Now, with technology reshaping that understanding, there is the chance to deepen and develop that. There is also the seeming promise that trials will inevitably come our way, but we will not be alone. And then there are the Jesus words quoted in that Gospel: “Peace be with you.” Ours is a God who companions us through the rough terrain of what human experience. And offers us peace. Maybe it is time to listen.

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