TELL EVERYONE I LOVE THEM
Barbara and I just returned from Portland to visit our son Matthew and our daughter-in-law Carrie. There was a sense of pride shared by Portlanders as they recounted the story of the men who decided to intervene to stop the harassment of two young Muslim women on the local train called the MAX. They heard an angry, middle aged man verbally abusing the two teenagers and they put themselves between the young women and the man who drew a knife and killed two of the men. As Taliesin (the name means the radiant one), a loving 23-year-old lay dying he whispered, “tell everyone on the train that I love them.” The woman who was holding him understood that to mean that the was sending love to everyone on the train – including the man who had stabbed him. Taliesin understood what Greg Boyle talked about at our last celebration: Emmaus “Is not the place you’ve come to, it’s the place we go from,” and you go from here to create a community of kinship such that God might recognize it” – that everyone on the train is one of us and shares the kinship of being human.
Meditation: I’d like everyone to sit comfortably and put your papers under the chairs. Then please close place your hands in your lap, palm up and close your eyes. Take a breath and feel it inside and out. Then I want you to imagine the Divine at the center of a circle that extends in every direction without end. There is warm light in every part of the circle and the circle is as familiar and safe to you as your own home. Then imagine all the peoples of the earth standing inside that circle. All the different colors and types, women and men, old and feeble, newly born and bright. Now imagine that there are barriers at the outer bounds of the circle. Here there are the poor and desperate, the immigrants and the homeless, the refugees and the outcasts, those in prisons and those who have created their own prisons through anger or addiction. Here are the wounded of spirit who can’t seem to forgive. Here are the fearful.
Now place your hands on your heart and extend your love to those who are separate, those in need of kinship. Send out your love as a warm light into the farthest extremes of the circle and let it begin to melt away the barriers that exclude. Imagine finally that everyone is standing inside the circle. Those people who have been at the margins are now inside the circle you created. You are welcoming and homecoming, light and warmth. Here there is the sound of laughter and no fear. “And awe came upon everyone in the circle because there was enough for everyone and no one in need.” And a voice was heard “Tell everyone in the circle that I love them.”
First Reading: “Praying” by Mary Oliver
It doesn’t have to be the blue iris, it could be weeds in a vacant lot, or a few small stones; just pay attention, then patch a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate, this isn’t a contest but the doorway into thanks, and a silence in which another voice may speak.”
Why does the example of Jesus still motivate us? Just as it motivated St. Francis, or Mother Theresa or Dorothy Day or so many other people through history – including so many people we know. I think it’s that sense of wholeness that we want to achieve – that vision of the Divine circle in which all people are included and no one is excluded or despised or demonized. No one is poor or hungry, scared or angry. In this reading shared by several people we hear old stories that, upon reflection, remain revolutionary and challenging for us.
Jesus Talks with a Woman
4 Jesus had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” For Jews do not associate with Samaritans and never speak with Samaritan women. 27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” because they knew Jesus spoke with everyone.
Jesus cures the leper
8 When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. 4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest.
The Faith of the Centurion
5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” 7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” 8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.
Jesus and the Tax Collectors
Jesus spoke this parable: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men-- extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his chest, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Jesus serves the poor where they live
When Jesus got off the bus at Union Station in Washington, D.C., this past February, he didn’t set off for the usual tourist attractions along the Mall. Instead, he headed for the marble fountain where homeless people gather outside. Most travelers walk by the homeless without a second glance. So what Jesus did next may well have surprised them: He chatted with them, pulled out his scissors and gave them haircuts, free of charge. Homelessness can seem like a problem too huge and intractable to tackle. But Jesus realized that he didn’t have to solve all of everyone’s problems to make an impact. Sometimes, a small luxury such as a haircut can go a long way in boosting someone’s dignity, Jesus told The Washington Post.
When we think about these examples we use our imaginations to picture each story. Each is magnificent in its own way – little gems that show us how to erase the barriers between us. Jesus talks with a woman from a different culture and sex could have been a headline... Jesus cures the leper – the most feared and outcast person alive, Jesus treats the Roman occupying Israel with respect and the tax collector – considered a tool of the Romans with love. He even cuts hair. Each story is designed to break through stereotypes and make the comfortable, uncomfortable – to erase the barriers. In the words of Father Greg Boyle “We stand with Jesus for those whose dignity has been denied, and we stand with those whose burdens are more than they can bear, and we will go from here and have this exquisite privilege once in a while to be able to stand with the easily despised and the readily left out, with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop, and with the disposable, so the day will come when we stop throwing people away.” I’d like you to think about how each of us can go about erasing those barriers that separate us – and perhaps share a story of your own.
May we go from here fortified with stories, songs and kinship to spread the good news that we are one. One people in one spirit No one left out No one alone Let us whisper throughout our days: “tell everyone that I love them.” Emmaus “Is not the place we’ve come to, it’s the place we go from,” to create a community of kinship such that God might recognize it.