Finally, I think what’s important about all this that we’re also coming to understand on a whole new level is that that kind of getting calm inside, that kind of grounding ourselves as we move through the world, as we are not just present to the world, but a presence — in our workplaces, in our families, with strangers, with the people we love, but also the people who drive us crazy — the more calm and grounded and full and whole and conscious our presence can be — that is civilizational work. Especially in a moment like this, where everyone is on edge, and all of our devices of culture — our technologies, but certainly journalism and news and so many of the images that are coming at us — they are designed to put us on edge. The more we can embody the reality that there’s more to us and there’s more to a day, that we are capable of calm presence; of presence; of, also, the joy that can rise up from our deep places that is different from the pleasure of the instant hits — that that is an offering, not just to our own resilience, but to everybody around us, in a way that I don’t think it was a few years ago.
If you walk around with hatred and prejudice in your heart and mind all day, morally you’re just as much a killer as the one who pulls out the gun. That seems to be what Jesus is saying. The evil and genocide of World War II was the final result of decades of negative and paranoid thinking among good German Christians, Catholic and Lutheran. The tragic fascism of Nazi Germany was fomenting in people’s hearts long before a political leader came to catalyze their hate and resentment. Now it seems we are seeing the same in the United States.
Jesus tells us to not harbor hateful anger or call people names even in our hearts like “fool” or “worthless person” (Matthew 5:22). If we’re walking around all day thinking, “What an idiot he is,” we are already in the state of sin. Sin is more a state of separation and superiority than any concrete action—which is only the symptom. How we live in our hearts is our real truth.
.. Jesus insists that we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). For Jesus, prayer seems to be a matter of waiting in love, returning to love, trusting that love is the unceasing stream of reality. Prayer isn’t primarily words; it’s an attitude, a stance, a state that precedes “saying” any individual prayers. That’s why Paul could say, “Pray unceasingly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). If we think of prayer as requiring words, it is surely impossible to pray always.
Prayer is a way of connecting with our source. It is about being centered, grounded, mindful of the holy, the presence of the sacred and the precious. . . .
- Prayer can help us to connect with the poor with open eyes and hearts.
- It is prayer that can allow us to educate with patience, love and understanding.
- It is prayer that can enable us to move to a simpler lifestyle.
- And it is prayer that will allow us to do this with conviction and joy.
.. And whether or not we pray is as obvious as whether or not we have put our clothes on. For example, the compulsive, frantic, angry, cynical, unintegrated rambling from project to project—even from peace project to peace project—may speak of good intentions, but also of an uneasy and untended inner life. It is possible . . . to do much harm because we have not taken the time to pray.
.. It is so very difficult to lead people into a willing critique of their politics, their country, their allegiances, without some awareness of how violence is so often the handmaid of greed and power.
The goal must be kept simple and clear—love of God and neighbor, union with God and neighbor. Our common word for this state of union is heaven.
.. Prayer is not a transaction that somehow pleases God but a transformation of the consciousness of the one doing the praying. Prayer is the awakening of an inner dialogue that, from God’s side, has never ceased.
.. Prayer is not changing God’s mind about us or about anything else, but allowing God to change our mind about the reality right in front of us (which we usually avoid or distort).