It pains me to watch the news. It would be easy to simply stay in my cloistered shell and play with my dogs. There is peace here, even with the air conditioning running. I hear about the many people dying of COVID-19 complications. I hear about the millions of people losing their jobs. I could easily turn it off.
I see the horror of one man being killed while arrested, one woman killed while officers are looking to make an arrest, and another man killed because someone assumed he was a suspect. Each life matters, especially to those whose hearts each life touched.
It would be selfish for me to ignore the suffering just because it’s not my own. Compassion means to “suffer with.” It is connecting with the suffering of others by remembering your own suffering. The First Noble Truth in Buddhism includes the pervasive nature of suffering.
I look back at what happened when Jesus walked the earth. Those in religious and political power strictly adhered to religious law and the rule of the land, even if it meant inequality, oppression and suffering.
Then Jesus came along and said, “I am The Way.” His was a way of making all things new, of repentance, of recognizing what was wrong and making it right. Jesus came to correct the path because people had resorted to their old ways. Those in charge didn’t want to hear it because they had control, and they were reluctant to give it up for the son of a carpenter.
Jesus saw how the patterns kept some enslaved and made others rich. He wasn’t afraid to call the patterns by name — slavery, injustice, greed, adultery. The oppressed and marginalized loved him because he saw them as human, not as property or low-lifes. He healed the sick and fed the poor. He asked for nothing in return because love is like that.
He asked for nothing in return because love is like that.
Yet those in power wanted to make an example of him. They figured that persecuting the leader would suppress his followers. He would die on the cross between two convicted criminals. His followers scattered in fear. The plan worked. They didn’t protest or put up a fight. Their bullying worked.
It would be easy to say the story ended there, but it didn’t. After a few days of mourning, he appeared to a woman who deeply loved him and stayed with him beyond the grave. She would tell his followers that he had risen.
He later appeared to them as well. He didn’t ask them to avenge his death. He didn’t tell them to be angry. Instead, he said, “Peace be with you.”
He said, “Peace be with you.”
He breathed life back into them, telling them that as many times they’ve been forgiven, they should forgive. He commissioned them with the same power he had — the power of love that could change hearts. He knew that changing hearts was more effective and enduring than changing minds.
Fifty days later, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the people from all nations. As they spoke, each could be understood by listeners in their native languages. They were indeed one.
They were indeed one.
Today, those in power wear different garments. They employ different weapons of power and oppression, but the issues are fundamentally the same. We cannot fight these issues with these same weapons. We have to aim higher.
We have to aim higher.
As Pentecost arrives, we can recognize the Spirit that lives within all of us. We can ask the Spirit not only to heal our pain, but also heal the fractures of society. We can sing this old hymn from the Archbishop of Canterbury:
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
We can feel defeated. We can feel disempowered. We can feel that change will never come. But it can and it will. We must seek the good in others and bind together. We must ignore the messages of hate and division and share messages of hope. We must, as Gandhi once said, “be the change we want to see in the world.”
Let’s let the good rise up.