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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

944: True faith amounts to an invincible Yes to life

Day 944: Sunday, October 16, 2022

True faith amounts to an invincible Yes to life rendered only the more vigorous by any subtle or outrageous coercion to despair.

Pray always without becoming weary (Luke 18:1)

In the tribal culture of today’s first reading, vengeance was the norm for dealing with “injustices” committed by one tribe against another. A “Holy War” was declared and the offending tribe was offered as a holocaust to the gods.

And Moses said to Joshua, Choose us out men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.

So Joshua did as Moses said and fought with Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the hilltop.

When Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and when he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.

But Moses’ hands were heavy and grew weary. So [the other men] took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Then Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side and one on the other side; so his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

And Joshua mowed down and disabled Amalek and his people with the sword.

And the Lord said to Moses, Write this for a memorial in the book and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under the heavens.

So what edification can we derive from such a violent text? At best maybe we can detect a contrast between the behavior of the Israelites in today’s first reading and that of the persistent woman in the Gospel? In the first it’s a blowout: Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the help of God!

In the Gospel a widow who has been ignored by an unjust society gets even not by any violence but by demanding justice, depriving society of its sleep until she is treated with respect. Much more humane.

“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’ ”

And Jesus said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

On September 13th, 2001 Jane and I took off for Italy as planned - two days after September 11th. I was of two minds after those events: to cancel our trip or to go anyway. I chose to go, if only to erase the images of that fateful day. But after a flight from San Francisco to a sojourn in that jewel of a city, Spoleto, the horrid images remained.

It was as if I had tried to outrun those clouds of dust that cascaded down Manhattan’s streets only to have them engulf me after all. I had thought that the ancient facade of Spoleto’s cathedral with its blue and gold mosaic of Christ, Mary and St. John or its interior frescoes by Filippo Lippi or the civilized panorama of a medieval city with its narrow streets and crowning citadel would be powerful enough to purge my memory of the evil I had beheld and restore my faith in humanity.

But they were of no avail. I would stand there in the piazza, sip coffee from a terrace whence I could take in the beauty of the Ponte delle Torri, a fourteenth century arched bridge spanning a gorge two hundred and forty feet deep and ask myself: “What relevance do any of these frescoes and facades, these charming towns have in the wake of so violent an event?” September 11th’s manifestation of human hatred, intensified by a righteousness bereft of any compassion, turned everything beautiful to ashes.

And then I realized: I was letting the toxicity of that event make of me one more casualty.

And it was fright over such a consequence that awoke me to the fact that faith is a feeble thing if all it amounts to is a passive inheritance, a habit, a mere reflex; that faith must be a willful thing possessed of the defiance exhibited by the woman in today’s parable. True faith is no mere “maybe” to be easily shaken by contradiction.

True faith amounts to an invincible Yes to life rendered only the more vigorous by any subtle or outrageous coercion to despair.

And so I resolved to nip in the bud my least tendency to sneer, to criticize other people, to damn inconvenience, to doubt my own worth, to ridicule the politically “incorrect” - in a word, to purge my own heart of those sour, resentful, negative tendencies that throughout humanity’s history have been the seed bed out of which holocausts explode.

On the other hand, I resolved to cherish every apple I see (bruised or not), every park and tree. every check-out person or banker I meet, every Cal Trans worker sweating over the asphalt, every human artifact (be it a billboard or a cathedral or a cheap vase tucked in the corner of a second-hand store window), - in other words, anything that testifies to humanity’s capacity - however modestly - to create rather than destroy a world.

From Vicki at St. Leo's:

Here's a link to this month's virtual Taize Prayer from the Sisters of Mercy.

Announcement from JoAnn and Jim:

Ecumenical Taize in Sonoma Valley celebrates DIA DE MUERTOS on Friday, October 21 at Congregational Church at 252 West Spain Street from 4:00 to 5:00 PM.

Those who attend are asked to bring pictures of their deceased loved ones to be placed on the altar during the service.

Ecumenical Taize happens each month of the year here in the Valley on the third Friday, 4:00-5:00 PM at the Congregational Church.

Taize prayer involves the repetition of simple Christian phrases. The experience of singing these phrases nourishes us on a deep non-verbal level. The service consists of quiet chanting, a psalm, a reading and silence. Taize prayer provides time for us to speak particular needs of our own and of the world; It gives us an opportunity to bring our burdens and the burdens of our world to the community committing to Christ Jesus all that is in our hearts.

Taize, a village in France where the brothers of an ecumenical community reside. Since the late ‘50’s, young adults and those of any age have been gathering by the thousands, literally, on the hillside of this little village, gathering to meet one another, to pray and discover how they can be messengers of hope and reconciliation in their own life situations.

The community was founded in 1940 by a young 25year old Swiss Protestant theologian, Brother Roger Schutz who soon became an icon of reconciliation in the lives of individuals and among churches.

After the start of World War II, the small village of Taize was close to the demarcation line that divided the portions of France controlled by German forces and by the French Vichy government. It was, the community said, strategically located for welcoming refugees, including Jews hiding from Nazis.

Warned that German forces were aware of their activities, Roger and his sister, Genevieve, let in autumn 1942, but returned in 1944. In the interval, a few other religious brothers had joined the order in Taize. Today, more than 100 brothers—Catholics and Protestants—from more than 25 nations are members of the community.

While the service itself is open to anyone, instrumentalists or singers interested in becoming part of an Ecumenical Taize Ensemble are invited to come to a rehearsal on Friday, October 21 at 3:00 PM, an hour before the service. If you are coming with an instrument please call Jim by Tuesday, October 18 so he can prepare the appropriate sheet music for you. For more information, please contact Jim McFadden at 707-815-2673 or Kathleen Lukefahr Jewell at 707-225-4804.

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