Saturday, January 26, 2008

Friday 1 February 2008

I think this is a powerful piece by Thomas Merton - a good way to end the week.

All forms of necessity can contribute to man's freedom. There is material and economic need. There is spiritual need. The greatest of man's spiritual needs is the need to be delivered from evil and falsity that are in himself and in his society. Tyranny, which makes a sagacious use of every human need and indeed artificially creates more of them in order to exploit them all to the limit, recognizes the importance of guilt. And modern tyrannies have all explicitly or implicitly in one way or another emphasized the irreversibility of evil in order to build their power upon it.

Point the finger at another evil and we are able to build a greater evil as we think we are creating something new and better. We have this great need to be delivered from "evil and falsity" and yet, as we can see within the campaigns that are going on right now in our is so very easy to slip into the ways of that which we do not want to be the way. Another item to look at is the conflict we face in Iraq and surrounding countries. We know that evil will continue. And yet, we use such an understanding to validate evil from our side. What an interesting way to play in the world! Rather than be a part of something radically new (I know if you use the word radical people get afraid), we use the evil of another to help us bring forth what is evil in us. Nothing changes and the only model for life that we have from all sides is that of violence and untruth - sounds like tyranny to me.

Connection: It is too easy to wage war. It is too easy to frame the day in violence. Then again, we are not called into something that is comes easy. We are called into a complete turn around that involves risk and rest.

Come, Spirit of Life. Come and remind us of how easy it is to become a part of a tyranny of hopelessness and fear. Continue to life up our eyes to your promise of new life within your peaceable Reign. Amen.

Thursday 31 January 2008

The journey continues.

Gandhi knew the reality of hatred and untruth because he had felt them in his own flesh: indeed he succumbed to them when he was assassinated on January 30, 1948. Gandhi's non-violence was therefore not a sentimental evasion or denial of the reality of evil. It was a clearsighted acceptance of the necessity to use the force and the presence of evil as a fulcrum for good and for liberation.

This falls so in line with Walter Wink's definition of a Martyr. He notes that "martyrs are not victims overtaken by evil but hunters who stalk evil into the open by offering as bait their own bodies." The martyr or witness or saint will be who s/he will be. In a violent world like ours, that means that there will be a witness that does not fit in with the prevailing powers. So to live brightly and fully and with a sense of purpose and truth and love, a witness to this Reign will find that there are powers that come out to stop what is unfolding. Gandhi knew the dangers of the world. Gandhi also knew the life that can be available to us even when there is threat abounding. Nothing can take away that life, even when violence and evil think they have done it on one level. There will always be people who are willing to dance out in the open within a life that is free from the powers of violence. It must also be noted that there will also be those who cannot allow such dancing. But in the meantime, there are those of violence and evil who are turned around and transformed by the power of love and truthfulness and joy.

Connection: Keep it up...keep it up.

Though the powers and principalities are aways looking at ways to control the day, you, O God, continue to whisper to us about life that cannot be controlled. Continue to bless us with that gentle and power word of life that you offer to us as our foundation and strength. Amen.

Wednesday 30 January 2008

More of Gandhi and that which is at the center of his life and thought.

...the cornerstone of all Gandhi's life, action, and thought was the respect for the sacredness of life and the conviction that "love is the law of our being." For he said, "If love or non-violence be not the law of our being, the whole of my argument falls to pieces." Note he also says that "Truth is the law of our being." But obviously Gandhi's life was without meaning unless we take into account the fact that it was lived in the face of untruth and hatred, the persistent and flagrant denial of love.

Even though it can be difficult to hear words of truth, isn't it a wonderful gift if that truth is offered within the never-failing embrace of love. Isn't the "love that will not let us go" a love of utter truthfulness because it is an affirmation of each matter what? It seems that a person of such devotion to this love and non-violence and truth must be always alert to how we are entering the moments of the day and how we interact within them. That can sound like an introspective nightmare of self-reflection without end...but it need not be that. Rather, I think it really demands a sense of forgiveness and grace. Part of the truthfulness is that we fall short and become nothing more than people who stumble over one another without really knowing why and how it happens most of the time. This, I think, gives all of us a bit more room to breathe and laugh and sigh and continue this journey of wonder and newness.

Connection: When we are available to one another and vulnerable with one another, isn't that the beginning of the promise of a new day?!?

You, O God, bring us into what is yet to be - the beloved community. We do not often stay there because we are busy pursuing what we want in our own lives. And yet, your Spirit continues to touch us and bid us to come and dance to the songs of a people utterly aware of one another and ready to take part in your gift of life and life together. Amen.

Tuesday 29 January 2008

There seems to always be a tie between inner and outer life. (You have probably noticed that I do not change Merton's or Gandhi's masculine language for humanity. Sorry for that - the first quote here is one reason I have been ignoring it.

"(People) cannot be free if (s/he) does not know that (s/he) is subject to necessity, because (his/her) freedom is always won in (his/her) never wholly successful attempts to liberate (him/herself) from necessity."

We have seen that Gandhi's political philosophy was based on this principle, because his religious intuition of the Hindu dharma (religion, duty) saw all life as one in a sacred cosmic family in which each member helped to elevate that whole from a selfish and destructive to a spiritual and productive level through sacrificial participation in the common needs and struggles of all.

I am often overwhelmed when I attempt to see the common needs and struggles of all. That is just the "seeing" of them! It is too much to consider...too grand a vision to take in and absorb. Then again, there is something miraculous and healing about taking a step and making a movement to move out of my sense of immobility and do something...something that brings me into contact with that vision. We are connected. Unfortunately, in our country and many others, we can stay away from those who are the victims of systems of success and plenty. We can avoid driving down certain streets...we can shop someplace else...we can only listen to only some stories...etc. We can even take part in religious communities that completely ignore the welfare of those other than myself and my own. And yet, each of us is needed to bring transformation. Each dreamer...each person who acts at any level...all who are willing and able to open our eyes and ears and mouths are the instuments that make sure that more and more people face the reality of life around us. It is not always the most rewarding of life tasks at the time it is taking place...but this kind of living is noted by others.

Connection: We are each in the midst of something miraculous. We need not deny it. We are invited to be a part of it...just a part.

Lord of New Life, when we cannot see how the world is to be healed and each person is a treasure in your eyes, slow us down and help us consider how you view all things and how you become within us the power to be a part of your presence today. Amen.

Monday 28 January 2008

Oops...sorry for the partial send over the weekend. Here's the whole devotion.
We're spending quite a bit of time on Thomas Merton's comments about Gandhi. But Merton does a good making sure we see both the subtle and dramatic aspects of Gandhi's work.

All the political acts of Gandhi were, then, at the same time spiritual and religious acts in fulfillment of the Hindu dharma (religion, duty). They were meaningful on at least three different levels at once: first as acts of religious worship, second as symbolic and educative acts bringing the Indian people to a realization of their true needs and their place in the life of the world, and finally they had a universal import as manifestations of urgent truths, the unmasking of political falsehood, awakening all men to the demands of the time and to the need for renewal and unity on a world scale.
It would do all of us well if we were able to consider the various ways our actions engage the world around us. The process of thought might cause us to slow down what we do and make sure that when we act we take into consideration more than our immediate wants...even needs. I really do think there is a great value in making sure that at some level, our everyday actions are symbolic. Others may or may not see the symbolism...but we do. It may mean that our side doesn't win or we do not make it all the way to the end. Then again, the action is all about the meantime. What is it bringing into the moment at time and what impact is it having on me...and possibly you? Part of a symbolic act may be that it does shake the foundations of the system. I didn't day destroy those foundations. Rather, shake them. It is in that shaking -even like a earthquake that is hardly noticed- that some heads turn and there is a realization that we must not hold too tightly onto the things of our lives. What more might there do we go there...who will benefit?
Connection: Sometimes symbolic acts can get into the way of living among others. Therefore, it is important to act in ways that set us free rather than bind us up. Each of us must find those actions on our own.
As your Spirit seems to encounter us in many ways, O God, our lives become a part of how you act among us. Many times, we do not consider that we are instruments of your Reign and the way we walk through this day may be how your love and compassion and justice and mercy will be experience by another. Make us bold in our lives. Amen.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Friday, 25 January 2008

Today we are simply continuing the piece from yesterday. I will include a portion of the text and move on to a new piece. Again this is from Thomas Merton on Gandhi.

Satyagraha (holding on to truth) is meaningless if it is not based on the awareness of profound inner contradiction in all societies based on force... Hence satyagraha according to Gandhi cannot seriously accept claims advanced by a basically violent society that hopes to preserve order and peace by the threat of maximum destruction and total hate. Satyagraha must begin by putting itself against this claim in order that the seriousness of one's dedication to truth may be put to the test. It is not possible for the truly nonviolent man simply to ignore that inherent falsity and inner contradictions of a violent society. On the contrary, it is for him a religious and human duty to confront the untruth in that society with his own witness in order that the falsity may become evident to everyone. The first job of a satyagrahi is to bring the real situation to light even if he has to suffer and die in order that injustice be unmasked and appear for what it really is.

Sound a bit like Jesus and the way he moved among the established powers of his day. It is risky and it is not the wide open pathway. It is a deliberate stepping so that the the powers of coercion and oppression and violence show themselves when the one of peace is denounce, ridiculed, and, crucified. It would be much easier to "go along" with the way things usually move within a violently oriented society and think that we can make the system change. Unfortunately, once we are sewn into the culture of violence, it is not easy to separate ourselves from its web. And yet, again and again, when we question ourselves and the system as it is, we become a part of the unmasking. This movement helps everyone. It may not bring about the long-awaited Reign of peace, but it will provide us with those sacred glimpses of what is promised. Somehow we must remember that even the mightiest of the violent powers stumble and blunder along when the light of non-violent truthfulness is allow to shine. Remember also that shining that light doesn't mean we will sheltered from the reaction that comes when any of us lets our anxiety turn us into protectors of the status quo.

Connection: Truthfulness comes in such small steps. It is therefore, always a good place to start within the context of this day and every day.

Lord of All Truthfulness, you free us to unmask ourselves and become vulnerable so that we can begin to unmask the powers of this world. And yet, we shake and quake and are unable to make today the day when your truthfulness is our light and our might and our sheer delight. Be with us and be our foundation upon which we will step within your Reign. Amen.

Thursday 24 January 2008

Merton continues to look at the involvement of the seekers of truth in the midst of a violent society.
The first principle of valid political action in such a society then becomes non-cooperation with its disorder, its injustices, and more particularly with its deep commitment to untruth. Satyagraha (holding on to truth) is meaningless if it is not based on the awareness of profound inner contradiction in all societies based on force... Hence satyagraha according to Gandhi cannot seriously accept claims advanced by a basically violent society that hopes to preserve order and peace by the threat of maximum destruction and total hate.
And yet, isn't this what we so often see...we make war in order to bring about peace. And yet, peace never comes in this way - it cannot. We cannot beat up someone and claim that we have brought about peace. We may have brought about silence - like a spouse that is beaten into submission and dares not speak unless another beating is used to "bring peace" again. It is so unfortunate that our anxious hearts lead us so quickly into the abyss of violence and fear mongering. This happens so quickly - like a reflex - that the suggestion of dialogue and negotiations and listening to others becomes known among us as a sheer absurdity. One of the reasons I watch political debates early in the debate season is that we are able to hear the people who raise up ideas that are quickly discounted...and yet they tickle us with a truthfulness that we only let be in our dreams. An example is every time Dennis Kuncinich talks about a Department of Peace - to train people in negotiation and conflict resolution - you can see the eye rolling. At times though, a candidate or two seems to really be listening...but will never go there. Our violent society has little toleration for such risk taking. We would rather fight and say we are right than to listen and entertain the possible that is a part of a promise.
Connection: Sometimes it is good to not have such quick reflexes. We need to remember to take that breath...maybe two...and see if we are able to reflect on possibilities rather than fall back on our quick responses to everything.
Lord of the Peaceable Reign that is always beside us, move us and encourage us to step across the line into that domain you have called the promised land. It is not easy. We are often afraid. And yet, in our hearts, we long for such a life and love and place of rest. Amen.

Wednesday 23 January 2008

Now that we have blended the notion of secular and sacred, here Gandhi will make more clarifying notes.

Gandhi...did not identify the "private" sphere with the "sacred" and did not cut himself off from public activity as "secular." Yet he did on the other hand look upon certain cultures and social structures as basically "secular" in the sense that their most fundamental preconceptions were irreligious (even though they might, on occasion, appeal to the support of religious cliches). Some of the most characteristic and least understood elements in his non-violent mystique follow from this principle which implies a rejection of the basic idea of the affluent industrial society. A society that lives by organized greed or by systemic terrorism and oppression will always tend to be violent because it is in a state of persistent disorder and moral confusion.

In my first reading, I somehow skipped over the part in the parenthesis. What a mistake. In the past few days, I was once again taken back by how politicians turn to simple "religious" cliches to sell their product - themselves. How quickly religious language is used in the process of empire building. Just the simply notion of the U.S. being a "Christian country" is an attempt to make a "secular" society that is sustained by a degree of "organized greed" into a sacred body. If those cliches had any depth to them, the empire would collapse because the notion of something like the Reign of God being the same as the oppressiveness of our society is blasphemy - that is, it uses the language of faith to describe something that is not a part of that vision. Non-violence cannot go along with the society that needs to perpetuate violence in order to sustain and even build its power and viability. The peaceable Reign of God (and I would include Gandhi's vision in this) is able to see that such a society is and will be violent unless it completely turns around and grabs hold of a vision that does not use violence to establish itself.

Connection: It is a very short trip from non-violence into the domain of violence. They are as far apart as two realities can be and yet, we quite easily trip from non-violence into violence when we live within a society that harbors violence so readily. So, every step we take needs to be a part of the prayerfulness of the Reign of God.

Spirit of Gentleness, you take us from the domain of hopelessness and greed and self-centered living and you show us the way of your peace. Too often, we cannot go into that place to which you bring us. Be our strength again turn around....again. Amen.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Tuesday 22 January 2008

More on fasting and the life around it.

Fasting remained primarily an act of worship and an act of witness to universal truth. It formed part of the Hindu dharma (religion, duty) and therefore of India's witness to the religious truths implicit in the very structure of cosmic reality. Hence for Gandhi to speak, write, fast, and exercise nonviolent resistance in behalf of the Harijan (outcastes, untouchables) and of Indian freedom was at the same time to bear witness to the chief truth of Hinduism: "The belief that ALL life is one, i.e., all life coming from the One universal source, call it Allah, God or Parameshwara..."

All life is one... It is not only difficult to imagine, it is so odd and foreign that even when we want it to be true, we so often fight against it in so many ways. But how else do we begin to move beyond the place in which we find ourselves living every day. The discipline is vital. I cannot even discipline myself to take care of my person health by working in the world can I begin to discipline my life to stay focused on the oneness of all of God's people!?! And yet, we are not hearing about anything more than one human being who was inspired to stay focused even when the powers of the world attempted to create a blur. This is another one of those times when it is so obvious to me that I need a community of contrary people who long for this oneness. In that way - in my stumbling - there will always be others who are ready to be the encouragement and the promise alive for all of us.

Connection: There are so many times that we are given the opportunity to open up our lives to others and the others become for us the sustaining power for change and new life.

Come, O Spirit of God, and with your constant touch and encouragement, lead us and push us and pull us and comfort us and stir us up and bring us together as one. Amen.

Monday 21 January 2008

Public action included fasting for Gandhi. Again Thomas Merton comments.

When friends tried to dissuade Gandhi from fasting for the people (and Gandhi's fasts were completely public, political acts in the highest sense of the word) he replied: "God's voice has been increasingly audible as years have rolled by. He has never forsaken me even in my darkest hour. He has saved me often against myself and left me not a vestige of independence. The greater the surrender to Him, the greater has been my joy."

He was never trying to simply "apply political pressure to achieve short-term ends. His fasts were a living reminder of whose we are and how all of us have gone off in a direction that is quite antithetical to who we are to be within God's Reign. In some ways, I suppose he practiced a discipline of hope. As close as he came to death, all he would see is the possible that was not yet. Therefore, as the fast continued, is sounds like he was always looking out to the the not the what could a wholeness that embraced all - forever and ever. In the meantime, his vision was so fixed on what could be the reality of the people, he was willing to walk into the light of his own death. He would have life no other way than within the reality of a world that was dedicated to the prayerful welfare of all people. Quite a personal and public witness.

Connection: What a discipline. To go through the present with eyes on the possible...eyes so fixed there is peace even in the midst of physical distress and turmoil. What is it that catches and keeps our eyes even within one day's time?

You promise to be our guide and our strength, O God, and we desperately need you to be just that. We can be overwhelmed so easily - and when that take place - we move with the wind as it changes from moment to moment. Keep us eternally focused on your promise of new life as we go about the life that is handed to us in this day. Amen.

Friday 18 January 2008

More of Thomas Merton on Gandhi.

...Gandhi's public life was one of maximum exposure, and he kept it so. For him the public realm was not secular, it was sacred. to be involved in it was then to be involved in the sacred dharma (religion, duty) of the Indian people. Surrender to the demands of that dharma, to the sacred needs of the Harijan (outcastes, untouchables) and of all India, was purely and simply surrender to God and His will, manifested in the midst of the people.

When the public is seen as sacred, all of our movement within our society is a part of the holiness of God's Reign. Religious duty or expression is not merely that in which we participate on a designated day in a designated place with a designated people. All is holy. In a day when there is much talk among religious people about the sacredness of life, it is too often only involved with the unborn fetus. What if we reflected on the sacredness of life so that we viewed all of life as that which needed to be protected? It almost sounds biblical when you think of it. The prisoners set free, the poor and weak and widow and orphan sheltered an given daily bread, the rich sharing of their wealth, the powerful taking care of the weak, the outcast brought home....on and on and on. Holy living becomes the character of life no matter when or where it takes place. No longer are there hot-button issues for religious folk to consider. Now, the care of all is the path of life into which we are each invited to live - holy lives.

Connection: What is so holy about this day? Look up from the is already calling us forth to live.

O God, you walk among us and you call us all into a relationship with one another as though in our relationships we will experience your Reign and find the way of peace in all things. It is not easy to view the ordinary as holy. We need the vision of your Reign to be the sight we are given today. Amen.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Thursday 17 January 2008

Yesterday Merton commented about violence, today it is about Gandhi and non-violence.

...with Gandhi non-violence was not a sinply marginal and quasi-fanatical indulgence of personal religious feeling. It belonged to the very nature of political life, and a society whose politics are habitually violent, inarticulate, and unreasonable is a subpolitical and therefore subhuman society. this of course was a truth that Gandhi had learned not from books but from experience - in South Africa!

We count on political systems to keep order in a humane manner. To watch out for those who are weak and frail for whatever might be the reasons for their watch out for the use of power that is exercised at the expense of the less watch out for every bit of injustice that makes life intolerable for some while others do so watch out for one another so that in every day, no one gets anyone. Non-violence is a part of the creation of such a life. Non-violence does not merely make sure that I do not act violently against another. Non-violence is a vision that demands that the welfare of all is considered in all we do. Therefore, we must always be willing to ask if what we do as a "people" a "political system" a society, is perpetuating the violence that seems to come to us so naturally. Merton ties an adjective like violent together with inarticulate and unreasonable to give us a look at what he calls is a subpolitical and subhuman society. What a good connection of words. Most of the time that is how I look at our U.S. action in Iraq. Then again, it is what I see in the Middle East and places in Africa and in the cities of our country. We are not making peace anywhere. We are simply continuing to be witnesses to a world of violence that has no interest in bringing about a peaceable Reign.

Connection: Give words to what we are doing and who we are. Then, try to see what comes of those words...within the movement of the day....violent....peaceful...human...subhuman!?!

You, O God, continue to call us into the way of the "truly human one" - the creature you created to be visibly alive within your image. We often fall for something else even as we hear of your vision for life for us. We need the fresh breath of your Spirit to turn our lives to the way of your peaceful Reign where violence is disrupted by loving kindness and world-changing compassion. Amen.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wednesday 16 January 2008

In the consideration of non-violence, it is appropriate to have some notion of what makes up violence. Here Merton shares some good insights.

Violence is essentially wordless, and it can begin only where thought and rational communication have broken down. Any society which is geared for violent action is by that very fact systematically unreasonable and inarticulate. Thought is not encouraged, and the exchange of ideas is eschewed as filled with all manner of risk. Words are kept at a minimum, at least as far as their variety and content may be concerned...they are simply organized and inarticulate noise destined to arrest thought and release violence, inhibiting all desire to communicate with the enemy in any other way than by destructive impact.

Though he notes that violence is wordless, it sounds as though he is most concerned with the importance of words of communication...words of dialogue. If there is not communication and no attempt to listen and speak and exchange ideas, there may be many words...but the words bring nothing new. Wordless violence may contain many words...but they are thrown around without concern for an honest exchange of ideas and dreams. Rather, the words are thrown around in order to put an end to dialogue and communication. Wordless violence can be the rhetoric of a society or group that is used to put an end to the life of others or to project onto the "other" all that is wrong in the world. For example, scapegoating uses many words but it will not venture into the risk of a dialogue. In Dialogue, differing sides can learn to live together or at least side-by-side. The many words involved in the making of a scapegoat are used to destroy the "other." Until we bridge those gaps with words that stretch across our differences and prejudices, our words really do add to the violence of our society.

Connection: Treasure the people around you who are open to discussion and willing to take the risk to draw everything into question. They could be the greatest gift to us.

Come, O Word of Life, and bring us into the domain of your beloved community. In that place, your Word leads us and then we begin to use our words as tools for reconciliation and peace making. We give you thanks for calling out to us and inviting us into the creative dialogue of your Reign. Amen.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Tuesday 15 January 2008

We continue with this connection between spiritual and political activity in Gandhi's life practice.

The liberation of India was to Gandhi a religious duty because for him the liberation of India was only a step to the liberation of all mankind from the tyranny of violence in others, but chiefly in themselves. So Gandhi could say, "When the practice of ahimsa (non-violence) becomes universal God will reign on earth as he does in heaven."

As we would say in the Lord's prayer when we pray for the God's Reign to come....we prayer that it will already come among us as we move through the days at hand. It is the practice of the life within the Reign of God that is a piece of its coming among us. Too often we sit back expecting magic to take place - puff, the Reign of God is here. Then we are confused or frustrated and even a bit despairing because the Reign of God or the life of nonviolence is not the way the world is moving. We know the ways of nonviolence, and yet it is rare for us to walk along that way. So to with the Reign of God. We hear about its life and see glimpses of it in Jesus and through the resurrection life of the Church, and yet we tend to linger in other places and move away from its promise. For us, it is in times like this that we trust that in the power of the Holy Spirit we will be moved to practice the life of the Reign of God and live as life is promised.

Connection: Practice, practice, practice....pray, come, Holy Spirit.

Lord of the Reign of God's Peace, pull us into your ways even as we wander about not sure where to go and how to get there. We need your life-sustaining love and Spirit to move us beyond ourselves and carry us into the embodiment of your Reign. Amen.

Monday 14 january 2008

This week Thomas Merton makes some connections between contemplation and action in the society.

Gandhi's career was eminently active rather than contemplative. ...his days of silence and retirement were not days of mere"privacy"; they belonged to India and he owed them to India, because his "spiritual life" was simply his participation in the life and dharma (religion, duty) of his people. Their liberation and the recovery of their political unity would be meaningless unless their liberty and unity had a dimension that was primarily spiritual and religious.

He may have been in a private situation...looking like he was alone. Then again, looking alone and being alone are quite different. When it says his days of silence and retirement - "belonged to India and he owed them to India," I think it makes us have to re-view the meaning of a contemplative life. To divide the world into two separate life situations would be to lose the power of what it means to be "spiritual." If the cosmos is created by the Spirit hovering over the void and being a part of the creative adventure of God, then nothing can be shut off from other parts with the belief that we can rise above or beyond or be disconnected from the life of the society and world. Setting the captive free is a liberation that takes place...within the deepest part of our hearts...the essence of our being...and throughout the whole world in which there are people locked away from the life that is meant for all.

Connection: It is so easy to slip from one side to the other and not be able to keep this wonderful balance that, again, like a breath, must be complete to make the world and our individual selves whole.

Breathe again and inspire us, O God, so that no matter what is on the agenda of this day, we will remain connected to you through our connections with all we encounter along the way. Amen.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Friday 11 January 2008

Thomas Merton goes on to comment about the importance of an "inner unity" within Gandhi so that satyagraha (holding on to truth) would not merely be seen as a technique for attaining a pragmatic end to something.

...the spiritual or interior life is not an exclusively private affair. The spiritual life of one person is simply the life of all manifesting itself in him. While it is very necessary to emphasize the truth that as the person deepens his own thought in silence he enters into a deeper understanding of and communion with the spirit of his entire people (or his Church), it is also important to remember that as he becomes engaged in the crucial struggles of his people in seeking justice and truth together with his brother, he tends to liberate the truth in himself by seeking true liberty for all.

There is a necessary dialogical dynamic to this journey...inward...outward....both and out. Time spent doing only one will exhaust us, if not bring us to our end. Humanity is a private and public being. Our creativity is unleashed as we nurture both aspects of what is essentially human about us. Within a community, this can also happen as we bring ourselves together in a fashion that allows us to be vulnerable and let the various journeys of inside and outside come together to share the warehouse of possibility that is the community together.

Connection: Inside...outside....inside...outside - a constant daily journey. Hmmm.

Like the breath of life that you bring to the world, O God, pull us in and send us out. Take us to places we have not yet considered and to people we have not yet encountered. Amen.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Thursday 10 January 2008

Toward the end of Gandhi's life, Merton notes something that became quite evident to Gandhi and why this adventure seemed to be an apparent failure.

He saw that his followers had not reached the inner unity that he had realized in himself, and that their satyagraha (holding on to truth) was to a great extent a pretense, since they believe it to be a means to achieve unity and freedom, while he saw that it must necessarily be the fruit of inner freedom.

The inner unity...the inner healing...the inner peace - is the whole. If it is just a face put on for others or a face put on until a task is completed, there really is no peace or healing or unity. It all becomes a game that keeps being played over and over again. And yet, we are all in the middle of that game - I know I am. Yes, we long for non-violence and peace and love of all...but we also long for other things that never let us rest within the center of our lives that bring us a taste of that "fruit of inner freedom." This does not mean it is not there. It does not mean that we cannot be wooed by its fragrance and beauty. It merely means we must learn how to turn and turn and turn and review all things that long to rule us and keep us separated from others. That is no simple trip. That is the journey to the cross and we have been invited to go that way and there is a promise that it is ours for the is ours...

Connection: These are not mere feelings. This is about the foundation that becomes the power that initiates life itself. The foundation is there...we have been invited again today to trust that it really is.

We long for that rest that you promise, O God. O how we long for that rest. From there, you tell us that you will bring life. But now...first...teach us to rest in you alone...and then. Amen.

Wednesday 9 January 2008

So, how does non-violence fit into the life of Gandhi.

In Gandhi's mind, non-violence was not simply a political tactic... On the contrary, the spirit of non-violence sprang from an inner realization of spiritual unity in himself. The whole Gandhian concept of non-violent action and satyagraha (holding on to truth) is incomprehensible if it is though to be a means of achieving unity rather than as the fruit of inner unity already achieved.

The end is already in the beginning. The non-violence is already deep within the heart and is at home available for life. This is where I so often realize just how far I am from this spiritual unity. And yet, we are each offered space and life and time to walk within the domain of this creative life that comes in the midst of communities that may be broken and divided and yet yearn for healing and wholeness and reconstruction. Love springs cannot be pressed into action. It unfolds from within a sacred place that is at the center of our lives. We can nurture that love in one another. We can encourage that love to be expansive and deep. We can rest in that love and learn to know how it is present among us. springs forth on its own. Then again, maybe within the simple discipline of listening and watching and waiting and touching, we will begin to awaken into a place free of violence and ready to be a part of the transformation of all things.

Connection: Everyday is that journey filled with so many events that know too well how to trip us up and send us off making war with one another. We do need each other to watch for that which trips us up.

Lord of the Journey, you have brought us into this day and you encourage us to "live." We long to live within the ways of your peace and yet we fight it at every step. Guide us, O Lord. Walk with us. Lift us. Amen.

Tuesday 8 January 2008

Here is a dated look at Gandhi's renewed consciousness that is helpful in understanding how unique and powerful it was. Gandhi's renewed spiritual consciousness of India:

...was entirely different from the totalitarian and nationalistic consciousness that came alive in the West and in the East (Japan) to the point of furious and warlike vitality. The Indian mind that was awakening in Gandhi was inclusive, not exclusive. It was at once Indian and universal. It was not a mind of hate, of intolerance, of accusation, of rejection, of division. I was a mind of love, of understanding, of infinite capaciousness. Where the extreme nationalisms of Western Fascism and of Japan were symptoms of paranoid fury, exploding into alienation, division, and destruction, the spirit which Gandhi discovered in himself was reaching out to unity, love and peace. It was a spirit which was, he believed, strong enough to heal every division.

This is so good. To listen to the roots of Gandhi's life of non-violence alongside the very violent and self-centered ways of Fascism and the Japanese empire of his day, can become a way of listening and watching what is going on around -- us. What is leading our country through the day at hand? What power is having its way with us? With what power are we willing to walk? There are many anxious powers trying to whip up the air around us so that we will find it easier to live amid divisions and to create more divisions and greater chasm between us. In the middle of all this, we are invited to breathe, connect with the one we call the Prince of Peace and begin to live within that holistic world where enemies really can become friends. Sound strange...and it is. That strangeness doesn't mean it isn't just the right place where we are called to live our lives.

Connection: I would think that most days, it would be helpful to stop and take a moment to envision something other than the usual pattern of division and separation that can overrun our thinking, our lives, and our spirit. Let's remind each other to breathe again before we turn to old ways of living.

Come, Light of Epiphany, come and shine for us so that our day will be filled with the brilliance of your truthfulness. Amen.

Monday 7 January 2008

Last week Thomas Merton was commenting about Gandhi's identification with the all people - including the "untouchables." This was all a part of his rediscovery of India. Here is a vital piece of reflection by Merton on this action.

This again is a supremely important fact, without which Gandhi's non-violence is incomprehensible. The awakening of the Indian mind in Gandhi was not simply the awakening of his own spirit to the possibilities of a distinctly Hindu form of "interior life."... Gandhi realized that the people or India were awakening in him. The masses who had been totally silent for thousands of years had now found a voice in him. It was not "Indian thought" or "Indian spirituality" that was stirring in him, but India herself. It was the spiritual consciousness of a people that awakened the spirit of one person... Hence Gandhi's message was valid for India and for himself in so far as it represented the awakening of a new world.

Having that "so much more" come into play within the actions of one's life must be an awesome experience. Maybe even to grand for most of us. And yet, within the life of some people, we are able to see how humanity can be more than what we have expected from ourselves. It was absolutely necessary for Gandhi, and I suppose we can say all of us, to find the life that was in, with, and under all other life. The breath, you could say, that is able to fill us up with a vision for life in which there is no one left one pushed one simply ignored. Rather, it is in the inclusion of all the people that we begin to be anointed with the power to reunite the separated and never allow one to be against another - for we are all one. That sounds like a dream...but then, we have people like Gandhi and others who often break through the veil that attempts to keep us less than fully human and less than non-violent.

Connection: When we are given the opportunity to see the how connected we are to one another, it is an experience of utter awe. That experience is not beyond the events that may come along today.

When you whip us up together, O God, you know that in the midst of our life together we will begin to see your face among us and those who were once far off become so essential to who we each become. Continue to bless us with your Spirit of life that awakens us even when we appear to be quite dead. Amen.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Friday 4 January 2008

Thomas Merton notes how Gandhi when about discovering his "right mind."
In rediscovering India and his own "right mind"... He was...identifying himself fully with the Indian people, that is to say not the Westernized upper classes nor with the Brahmin caste, but rather with the starving masses and in particular with the outcaste "untouchable," or Harijan.
Sounds a bit like Jesus going among the least, the lowest, the left-out. If we are to become familiar with all the people it must be with all the people. If we are to look out for the welfare of all the people it must be the welfare of all the people. I cannot imagine making such connections. It is too easy for me to stay within my comfortable existence and not have to really meet up with the real situations in which many (too many) people live. And yet, what Gandhi gained was what all of us have the opportunity to gain. Not merely a sense of compassion for the other, but rather a transformation of other into brother/sister. That, is an amazing journey that cannot be cut short. It is also a journey that we wake to each day. Therefore, we are never given the opportunity to say we have failed at being a part of such a community. Rather, we are being handed new opportunities to make those connections again today. It may mean we listen to people to whom we would not usually listen and we may exchange ideas with those outside of our usual routine.
Connection: Let's be surprised by what we may learn within this day...and who will be our teachers.
You, O Light, awaken us bring us into the experience of you love even when we do not expect to be touch and moved by such a power. Grand us the wisdom to see how your love for the world makes itself manifest to us within this day. Amen.