These words came across in a strangely very candid, almost “transparent” kind of way today:
“I am God’s dwelling place”
….so goes the opening lines of today’s meditation from the Irish Jesuits prayer website – Sacred Space.
Which let a whole range of emotions and memories of past experiences wash over me. When I let them sink a little further, I can just about see how blessed I am, indeed how blessed we all are, how wonderfully made, in God’s own image.
But then reality hits in. I find as with many others, that health problems arise as we grow older; financial dilemmas threatening to overwhelm us especially in the light of the current global recession; difficult inter-personal relationships as we discover new people coming into our lives; swimming against the tide with floundering faith in the face of mass deception by the media, elected government and perhaps most disturbingly, within and among the Church itself.
Why is there so much misery today? Within me? Among one another? Among races, between nations?
In the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, there’s a song called “Poor Jerusalem” that goes in part like this:
If you knew all that
I knew, my poor Jerusalem,
You’d see the truth, but you close your eyes…
But you close your eyes.
Today’s Sacred Space reflection tells us that “Jesus was sorrowful that they did not recognise the visit of God when he came” and more poignantly, “…. He weeps not for the destruction of bricks and mortar, but for the suffering of the people in the city and the destruction of peace”.
In the book “Mary, Shadow of Grace” by Megan McKenna, the author tells a delightful story of how we can all be present to one another. It goes something like this:
Once upon a time there was an abbot of a monastery who was very good friends with the rabbi of a local synagogue. It was Europe and times were hard…
The abbot found his community dwindling and the faith life of his monks shallow and lifeless. Life in the monastery was dying. He went to his friend and wept. His friend, the rabbi, comforted him and told him: “There is something you need to know, my brother. We have long known in the Jewish community that the Messiah is one of you.”
“What,” exclaimed the abbot, “the Messiah is one of us? How can that be?”
But the rabbi insisted that it was so, and the abbot went back to his monastery wondering and praying, comforted and excited.
Once back in the monastery, walking down the halls and in the courtyard, he would pass by a monk and wonder if he was the one. Sitting in chapel, praying, he would hear a voice and look intently at a face and wonder if he was the one, and he began to treat all of his brothers with respect, with kindness and awe, with reverence. Soon it became quite noticeable.
One of the other brothers came to him and asked him what had happened to him. After some coaxing, he told him what the rabbi had said. Soon the other monk was looking at his brothers differently and wondering. The word spread through the monastery quickly: The Messiah is one of us. Soon the whole monastery was full of life, worship, kindness and grace. The prayer life was rich and passionate, devoted, and psalms and liturgy and services were alive and vibrant. Soon the surrounding villagers were coming to the services and listening and watching intently, and there were many who wished to join the community.
After their novitiate, when they took their vows, they were told the mystery, the truth that their life was based upon, the source of their strength and life together: The Messiah is one of us. The monastery grew and expanded into house after house, and all of the monks grew in wisdom, age, and grace before the others and the eyes of God. And they say still, if you stumble across this place, where there is life and hope and kindness and graciousness, that the secret is the same: The Messiah is one of us.
Glory to you, Source of all being
Eternal Word and Holy Spirit,
Who dwells in our midst
Both now and forever. Amen.
In other words, we are all God’s dwelling places. If we can remember that every now and then in the daily grind of our lives and continue to work for peace and justice, we may yet succeed in building new “Jerusalems” right where we are.