July 30, 2017
By Sr Phyllis Jaszkowiak
Listen to Sr Phyllis' Reflection here, or read the text below.
I saw a quote the other day from Sojourners Magazine, “If your world doesn’t feel like it is turning upside-down, maybe you aren’t watching carefully enough.”
Sometimes as I listen to the news of what Congress is or is not doing, the acts of hate that seem to be happening all too often now, of what our President does or does not say, I wonder how do we let God, let goodness, lead again?
The Scriptures for today give us some help. God tells Solomon to ask for a gift. Solomon asked for an “Understanding Heart, to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.”
Jesus in the Gospel says if we find a buried treasure or a pearl of great price, we should sell all we have to buy them. Jesus doesn’t say to try to get the best price, or to haggle about buying the pearl or the buried treasure. He just says sell ALL that you have to buy them.
What is this pearl of great price, this buried treasure? How do we grow in wisdom or an understanding heart? How do we find them? How can we meet our upside-down world with any kind of rational action for the common good?
Most Spiritual Leaders say we usually don’t go looking for the buried treasure or the pearl of great price. They appear before us as we live our ordinary lives. If we are able to “see”, have an understanding heart, we recognize them. It is then we have the choice to sell all and buy them, or just go on as usual and not recognize them. Or as Mary Oliver says, “The earth is aflame with the glory of God, but most people sit around eating blackberries.”
The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have collaborated on a book called the Book of Joy. To be joyful they say, even in the midst of terrible suffering, one doesn’t look for joy. Instead one looks outward, toward others, to see the other person as a human being just like oneself. This takes forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity. If we develop these virtues, then the joy, which is really within each of us, will grow and bubble forth. We won’t be able to hold it down.
Pope Francis echoes these thoughts when he says in The Joy of the Gospel that we must treat everyone with compassion and mercy, that we must forgive everyone, and that we must show respect to everyone even those we may not like. Jesus says the same when he says, “Love your neighbor as yourself;” and “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 22:39 and 5:44
Through love we come to know the God within, who continually seeks an intimate relationship with us. This relationship is deepened by taking time to be with God in Silence and Solitude, deep contemplative prayer.
These three great leaders of today, The Dalai Lama, Archbishop Tutu, Pope Francis, resisted, spoke against, endured death threats as they led people against Apartheid in South Africa, against the Chinese invasion of Tibet, which led to exile for the last 50 years, and against the wars of today in the Middle East and Africa which makes exiles and refugees of millions of people. They take time for meditation and prayer which enables them to continue the resistance, to fight against these evils and act for peace, and at the same time act toward their opponents as human beings just like themselves. Contemplation, getting in touch with the Divine, helps us to act toward others with love. We still meet reality as it is, we still resist the evil, and we act out of love.
So I invite us all to develop some contemplative prayer practice that we do each day that will lead us to the God within, the God who loosens the joy inside of us so that we can continue to act for good and against evil, so we can be bearers of Good News, in our world that so desperately needs real, authentic, faithful, joyful people.
In God, we will find the pearl of great price, the buried treasure, and the understanding heart. We will be willing to sell ALL we have to gain them. And the great surprise is, that somehow it won’t feel like we have lost anything, instead we have gained everything.
Kathy Khang, DISTRESS SIGNAL, Sojourners Magazine August 2017, page 20.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, with Douglas Abrams, THE BOOK OF JOY: LASTING HAPPINESS IN A CHANGING WORLD. Avery: an imprint of Penguin Random House. 2016
Pope Francis, THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL (EVANGELII GAUDIUM) Apostolic Exhortation. 2013 Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City. Published in the United States, December 2013.