all of the selves we Have ever been
Because if people touch God anywhere, where is it except through their conscience?
(From: The Ox-Bow Incident)
There is no end to the bad news. I end the year bewildered.
If the headlines are true, the human race has become unteachable, unmanageable, and ungovernable. Each individual now operates in a “world of one” where the rules don’t apply to ME. At the same time, the headlines scream that loneliness has become an epidemic. It appears we cannot live in a world of one and be happy.
Where shall we find hope?
Despite my Catholic upbringing, my childhood image of God was not manifested by our priest, the Pope, or even Superman. God’s presence, His reassurance in our everyday lives was in our Uncle John. He was the benevolent omnipresent force, an idol we did not want to disappoint. He greeted us with the touch of his thumb pressed against ours, but we lived touched by his presence. We lived with faith in knowing he was out there, that the phone would ring at just the right time, that there would be a hand in hard times. Uncle John was not prone to lecture or to “stirring the pot,” as he would say. Never one to judge, his worst admonishment was a slight tension in his jaw, a wince of his right eye. His was the voice in our heads at weak moments when we were not thinking straight. We carried him with us on the inside, a conscience to our consciences.
Not everyone believes in God, and among those who believe, there are different images of the One, The Force, the Something Greater. My own beliefs have evolved over the years. While I no longer accept all of the teachings of my early religious education, I cannot help but believe that there is something greater than me. Hope would not be possible otherwise.
Sometimes on a hazy day when the sun breaks through the clouds and a beam of soft light shines down on the earth below, I expect to see the hand of God break through the clouds and reach down and touch me just as I have seen in beautiful paintings.
I believe the beauty of our prayers and holy rituals is that they connect us to this helping hand and to all those who came before us and whispered, sang, and shouted these same words. And in those moments of shared prayer, we are one with the millions of others who, at the same time, are bent in prayer and reaching out with their hearts to the same Something Greater to say, ‘”Touch me. I am here.” I believe that the children of Gaza and the Ukraine and Sudan and so many places around the world are praying too. Some helpless child resting on the street in a border town in our own country trying to escape violence, famine, and hunger…they are praying too. They say the same prayers, ask for the same relief, hope for the same blessings. When I meet with them in prayer, holding hands with the One, there is no way I can see them as vermin or poison.
And so, I pray to live more consciously and with conscience in the year ahead. I resolve to ask: “How can I be of service?”--rather than: “What’s wrong with these people?” I know I can be better. I can do better. And Uncle John is still watching.
We have God’s phone number. Let’s keep in touch.
Happy You Near!