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42 Days

42 Days. 42 days of ads and pundits and predictions and more ads. There will be debates and drama and derision. 42 more days until the election. 

I am a bit weary of it all. I don’t want to divide people into rival factions. I don’t want to demean the other. I don’t want to hear any more about a butler’s pantry or if someone said that restaurant workers shouldn’t wash their hands. As a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, my vocation is to see the divine spark and beauty in each person. I am called to think, share, dream, and build the ways and means to care for my neighbors and my community because this is pleasing to God. In hope of countering the cacophony of noise that surrounds these days before an election and to center my heart, I turned to the words of Thomas Merton. I was especially drawn to Merton’s revelation at 4th and Walnut in Louisville, KY. Just in case you have never read it, here it is:

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world. . . . 

This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. . . . I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. . . . But this cannot be seen, only believed and ‘understood’ by a peculiar gift. (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander)

What a beautiful image! We are all “walking around shining like the sun.” I hope in this week you are able to catch a glimpse of your neighbors radiating the divine spark. I pray that you are filled with laughter and overcome with joy as you consider the illusion of difference. I trust that God will lead us all to paths of righteousness in service and love.

Amanda Atkin
Associate Minister of Faith Formation