Archive for September, 2018

The Kindom of Heaven is not Conflict Averse

September 10, 2018

The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.

Matthew 13:33 (International Standard Version)

Jesus cuts to the chase. The Kingdom — or better — the Dominion of Heaven is not simply an idyllic realm set apart from this world of strife, privation, and racism. No! The Dominion of Heaven is dynamically present in the fullness of life — pleasant and otherwise.

This is a hard truth. We don’t want to suffer. We want to believe that there is a way to escape from the unpleasant parts of life. We want goodness to effortlessly and miraculously change the world so that there is no hardship and pain. But if we look at the lives of Jesus, Buddha, their Disciples, and other religious Greats we see that they often faced adversity. They had to overcome obstacles, deal with conflict, and generally work very hard to realize their vision. They also suffered — and enjoyed — fully human lives. That is what makes them extraordinary. They were completely human and vulnerable, but their lives always pointed toward the Divine.

In recent times, we have seen a number of spiritual giants arise in the midst of hardship and horror: Gandhi, Dorothy Day, HH the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Friar Maximilian Kolbe, Oscar Romero, and many others.

None of these individuals’ lives were easy. They faced impossible situations with courage, hard work, and perseverance. They embodied faith and vision in the midst of adversity. They offered hope to those who had lost all hope by tirelessly and continually showing up and fighting for the welfare of others, sometimes at the cost of their own lives.

christ of the bread linesAwakening to the reality of the Dominion of Heaven does not free us from the emotional and physical ups and downs of life. We do not cease to experience hurt, fear, or doubt. Rather, the Dominion of Heaven breaks open our hearts to the reality of unconditional and all-embracing love.

Love — Άγάπη — is the Divine Leaven. It nurtures and heals our human relationships as well our connection with all of creation. Love is the heart of the religious life.

To boldly live a life of love — even in the midst of adversity — is to embrace the reality of the Dominion of Heaven. As Saint Catherine of Siena famously said, “…All the way to heaven, is heaven.” The path is the destination.

Yes, at some future time we may enter the glorious and blissful realm of the Divine. But right now and right here we must allow ourselves to be the Divine Leaven in society. We must take up the hard and sacred work of transforming this world into a realm of love and compassion.

The Divine is radically transformative. Therefore, the work of social change will often bring us into conflict with others who are resistant to changing. As religious practitioners we cannot be afraid of this inevitable conflict. Yes, we should be aware of our motivations. We should certainly try to remain rooted in love. But we cannot allow the desire to avoid conflict stand in the way of doing what is right.

We must lead the fight for social just with love in our hearts and a deep concern for the welfare of all, even our adversaries. This is the work of love. It is not easy. But it is the way to realize the Dominion of Heaven.

Peace, Paul