Israel and Palestine and I weep. Yes, I pray, too - and study and seek understanding and even greater compassion - but mostly I weep. Jesus told us that those of us who weep are blessed because our tears will be wiped away. I trust that - and in some contexts know it to be true - but I sometimes resist honoring this counter-cultural spiritual wisdom because it hurts. Not nearly as much as the wounds wrought by a suicide bomber or a volley of bullets, of course. My life has been one of privilege and safety and I grasp the differences as much as someone in my world can. The poet, Yehuda Amichai, pushes me towards understanding in his agonizing poem, "The Diameter of the Bomb."
The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.
And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making a circle with no end and no God.
And still I weep - and ache - for Palestinians and Jews and Christians and everyone in between. Moreover, when I grow weary of weeping and aching I wonder how can these tears be a state of grace? A blessing? Absurd. Insane and cruel. And yet that is what Jesus says: blessed are those who weep because our tears will be wiped away.
No time soon - it should be clear to all - and therein is part of the paradox. I yearn for results based upon a time table that I can control. This aching, however, is how I ripen in compassion. Can I love without results? Can I do it anyway a la Mother Theresa? Could it be, as I have to trust, that the aching is not a sign of alienation or separation from God, but rather intimacy? Richard Rohr teaches that when we open ourselves to the most gut-wrenching and honest love we are capable of holding, then we are blessed for we have "tasted and seen" but a small sliver of the agony the Lord feels over this hatred, fear, mistrust and seemingly endless cycle of violence and retaliation. Our tears are communion with the Lord. Oh how I want my blessings to be consolations when, in fact, God's love cuts far deeper.
Tonight's prayers from J. Philip Newell's, Praying with the Earth, concludes like this:
The compassion of God is for all that has been made. (Psalm 145: 9)
Come to me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11: 28)
By the light of the day and the dark of the night your God has not forgotten you. ( Quran - Daylight 93: 1-3)
In lives where love has been born this day, thanks be to you, O God.
In families where forgiveness has been strong, thanks be to you, O God.
In nations where wrongs have been addressed, where tenderness has been cherished and where visions for earth's oneness have been served, thanks be to you, O God. May those who are weary find rest this night. May those who carry greater burdens for their people find strength. And may the least among us find greatness: strength in our souls, worth in our words and love in our living.
I noted in worship this morning that when the Psalmist says in Psalm 34: “I willbless the Lord at all times…” the Hebrew word “bless” - barak – means to kneel. It comes from the same root word as knee so that we bless the Lord when we live on bended knees – when we live in humble service to others – when we find ways of just DOING IT ANYWAY as our living prayer.
Clearly, the blessings Jesus speaks of have almost nothing to do with articulating the right words, but rather from living into the freedom we encounter through forgiveness and heart-breaking compassion. To bless the Lord is to become other-centered – one of the saints – at peace with doing it anyway. I pray I NEVER become at peace with my tears for then they would no longer be a blessing.
(photo credits: Dianne De Mott)