I'VE WALKED A LEARNING CURVE again this summer. Unexpected illness and ensuing weakness begets a strength all of its own. Weakness is a gift. An education. And I've been blessed by both weakness and the strength that flows into and out of it.

I'm an optimist. I believe in God and I believe in people so I generally default to “the upbeat” rather than “the downside”. But eternal optimism can be exhausting in the face of all-too-human earthy reality. Christians and many other women and men of goodwill can be tackled to the ground by the very Church or institution they seek to love and serve.

The Church is not exempt from the selfish gene, or the self-satisfied one either. Indeed there are certain religious “types” that at times appear more selfish and self-important than most; certain religious types who seem to have forgotten the Divine call and imperative to compassion and all encompassing embrace, much more concerned with personal tastes and pick 'n' mix preferences (the ones they call “biblical” usually being the most distasteful) than with the challenge to a different kind of “choice” flagged up, even unto death, by the hunted and haunted Jesus. Some of the inconsequential tripe that people argue about in and around my parish beggars belief – whilst issues of real consequence like war, greed, racism, selfishness and vanity appear almost entirely to escape their attention.

I remember a similar “churchy” conversation-going-nowhere the night before 9/11.

So I have a huge appetite for the loving offerings of any and all who, recognising the desperate need for a deeper compassion in the heart of humanity – in Syria, for example, or in the suffering and despair of an impossibly huge raft of outcasts and the shunned – call humankind to pay attention to its actions and allegiances, offering the loving hand of companionship and goodwill for the journey.

And tonight I want to name three wonderful people (amongst the very many others that all of us, if we put our minds to it, could name) who have a gift for affirmation and embrace, and for pointing us to the gifts in others. Not all of them would think of themselves as acting in the name of “Gospel” in any religious sense, but each is an agent of “Good News” – which is what “Gospel” is supposed to be all about. I'm heartened and encouraged by these recent offerings:

Richard Rohr who offers Daily Meditations here

It seems to me that it is a minority that ever gets the true and full Gospel. We just keep worshiping Jesus and arguing over the exact right way to do it. The amazing thing is that Jesus never once says, “worship me!”, but he often says, “follow me” (e.g., Matthew 4:19).

Christianity is a lifestyle—a way of being in the world that is simple, non-violent, shared, inclusive, and loving. We made it, however, into a formal established religion, in order to avoid the demanding lifestyle itself. One could then be warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain at the highest levels of the church, and still easily believe that Jesus is “my personal Lord and Savior.” The world has no time for such silliness anymore. The suffering on Earth is too great.

Compassionate Action Fr Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation, 8 September 2012

David Herbert who blogs at The Jog here

Richard Beck posts a quote from a recent interview given by Sr Joan Chittister for the Jackson Free Press. The question was:

“So, as a woman of faith, as a monastic, how do you see your role and the role of other people of faith in the world?”

Sister Joan's reply:

It's a simple one: To see injustice and say so, to find the truth and proclaim it, to allow no stone to be unturned when it is a stone that will be cast at anyone else. It's just that simple. There is nothing institutional, organizational, political about it. It says: “Where I am, you may not harm these people. You may not deride them; you may not reject them; you may not sneer at them, and you certainly cannot blame them for their own existence.” 10 September 2012

Mimi at Waiting for the Karma Truck here (who today offered me this encouragement)

I delight in this young woman’s talents, but honestly find cause for celebration in seeing your post and feeling your strength returning. Can that be celebrated next Sunday?

Affirm God in one another. That's the call of Jesus of Nazareth. You may not harm these people. Being warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain at the highest levels of the church, [whilst still easily believing] that Jesus is “my personal Lord and Savior.” – The world has no time for such silliness anymore. The suffering on Earth is too great.

Heaven on Earth is delivered by the hands and hearts of those who minister affirmation, compassion, grace and hope to others – whatsoever the human detail of their religious faith (or lack of it) and wheresoever they may be. “You may not harm”. I thank God for any and all who, hearing that yearning call, seek instead to upbuild and to affirm. That's the brightest and best “religion”, the brightest and best kind of “drawing, or binding together, and making whole”. Wholeness and holiness amount to the same thing.


11 thoughts on “YOU MAY NOT HARM

  1. “But eternal optimism can be exhausting in the face of all-too-human earthy reality. Christians and many other women and men of goodwill can be tackled to the ground by the very Church or institution they seek to love and serve.” : Never were there words so appropriate to the call of a parish priest. How do we “continuously stir up the gift of God that is within us”, when so often it is met with blanks stares, apathy, or hostility? Hang in there brother! I am praying for you, as I know you are for me!

  2. What a lovely post, Simon, and it warms my heart beyond measure to see you recognize Mimi in this way, as I personally believe that she is an angel in earthly form. :-). The optimism, love and affirmation of all that is good in the world shine through in every one of your posts, and I feel blessed to be within your orbit. While I am not a religious person in the traditional sense of the word, I do believe in a higher, benevolent spirit, and when I witness the love, kindness and broad-minded spirit with which you approach life, my faith is renewed. Sending love and many blessings your way…. Lori

  3. Good morning dear friend..After i stopped crying (yes, I am one of those emotional wimps), I thought to send this response..Simon, I am humbled that you would consider me amongst those who are positing far greater thoughtful considerations. You – who are across the pond – living your best life, are my friend. We have a connection that crosses the vagaries of time zones. I don’t know if I’m worthy of the company in which you have placed me. But I am happy on a far humbler level – that I brought you joy and encouragement. You give that to so many everyday. I have done that which friends do – and for that I am grateful. Much love and appreciation (and continued nudges for you to take good care of yourself), mimi
    ps. Lori is a cherished friend and is incredibly biased…but it is clear from her comment why I love her so. Is there a better heart in the US – I don’t think so…

  4. I am so drawn in by this! Simon, in your weakness you have been made strong. You are the miracle you write of here. And this last line, “Wholeness and holiness amount to the same thing.” Yes, yes, yes my soul sings in agreement! I love your depth and your wisdom and the fact that both are so completely authentic in you. Thank you for your writing. Even more, thank you for who you are and continue to become. You give me hope and are such a source of encouragement to me.

  5. Thanks, dear Marc. You too. Prayers, certainly, for you and all of yours. Please remember me to them – UK and US based.

  6. Dear Lori. I’ve read and re-read your kind words here and I want to take care to be neither cheap, too quick, nor too flippant in responding that I don’t think I’m a “religious person in the traditional sense of the word” either. Though I joyfully subscribe to the etymological sense of the word, from the Latin “religare” – to join together, or to bind (as in a healing binding) together, as one.

    I’m sure that you and I, in company with billions upon billions of others – past, present and future – hear the call and feel the enlivening, quietening breathing of the same “higher, benevolent spirit”. And I love and honour the uniting blessings of such shared hearing. I think it’s our future. All our futures. Your generous response and love renews me, too. Thank you.

  7. Dear Mimi. You and Lori must come from the same stock. Don’t be humbled by me though, friend. And certainly don’t think of yourself as – in any way – unworthy. Whenever I think of you I think again of the young girl, full of self-doubt, who nevertheless gave herself willingly to the vocation of a camp counsellor, changing the course of the lives of heaven-only-knows-how-many other self-doubting souls. Your friends, me amongst them, think of you as pure gift, Mimi. Pure gift:)

  8. Isn’t this world full of the most remarkable, wonderful people Rebecca? And you’re most assuredly one of them. “My soul sings …” May it always be so. Did you ever hear the song of a nightingale? It’s like the song of your blog, like the song of the unfolding story of your life – and the life of your lovely husband, growing sons and wider family. When others hear the song, when others hear your song, they sing too. Notes blend together. As Brother David Steindl-Rast has it in his glorious translations of Rainer Maria Rilke – “circling and circling” until one day we recognise we’ve arrived in the space and the place and the joy where we’re all combining to sing “The Great Song“. Thank you for singing Rebecca. Thank you for friendship, too.

  9. Dear Cynthia, thank you for this. Thank you too for your very kind thoughts and enquiries. I’m hugely better, but have been chastened enough to be paying proper heed to the counsel “take care”. We learn, eventually, don’t we? 😉 I hope that you are thriving. It’s great to be keeping in touch.

  10. Perhaps that is the mark of real friendship..The recognition that it is a gift to be cherished in a way that few gifts are. 🙂

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