Deborah Beach Giordano
October 24, 2016
Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9
Jesus said, ”I tell you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
A Crisis of Faith
Every morning starts out the same: I awaken feeling fine; a second cup of tea brings me to full consciousness, the toaster delivers a warmed Costco muffin, the dog engages in her daily bark-a-thon with the crows… Life is good. Then I look at my newsfeed.
It’s as if I’ve suddenly stepped into a poisonous fog that clouds my vision, muffles my hearing, and confuses my thinking. I feel dizzy, sick; my psyche and soul contaminated by the endless barrage of hatred, sneering, and scorn.
I don’t like feeling that way. I don’t like the fear that it evokes in me, and I especially don’t like what it does to my faith. Because there are are times when I look at what is going on; when I see the depths of rage and raw emotion that are filling the air — and I begin to wonder if True Evil has taken over.
Evil doesn’t have anything to do with a character in a red suit with pointy-toed shoes and a tail; there isn’t a singular, specific fiend at the bottom of it all. The “demonic” — powerful, mindless, destructive evil — is an energy field, if you will. It is a force that gathers strength, building on its own power: a kind of psychic/spiritual hurricane, fed by the roiling waters beneath it.
Hatred builds up more hatred. This is true of individuals and communities. We can, each of us, become a seething mass of hatred, readily finding causes and triggers to increase our rage and justify our hard-heartedness. We are drawn deeper and deeper into the spiral, seeking further reasons to despise those “others,” taking joy in condemning them, delighting in their suffering. We gather together with “our own,” and incite each other to greater hatreds and deeper contempt. Then one day a sudden spark of anger turns the gathering into a mob: the very definition of mindless violence.
Evil, personified, is us.
Or it can be, if we’re not careful.
Challenging the System
In the current political climate of the U.S., it is easy to get sucked into the vortex of hatred. The challenge is to avoid adding our energy to this destructive force and, further, to actively work to counteract it. “Where there is hatred, let me sow love,” in the words of the Franciscan peace prayer.
But such a goal can be difficult to achieve; we cannot give what we do not have: we cannot be free-flowing founts of charity and kindness when our own reserves are nearly depleted. It is hard to live in hopeful, expectant joy — believing that this is, indeed, God’s world — when we are daily inundated by solid proof of evil’s successes: the seemingly endless examples of injustice, destruction, bloodshed, and hatred. The question for every faithful person must be: Where is God in this? Or, perhaps more honestly, is God in this?
As I asked myself that question, I was reminded of a series of books that were popular when my son was young. Each was a collection of intricately-drawn illustrations of crowded streets, amusement parks, plazas, supermarkets, restaurants; the task for the reader was to find the main character from among the confusion: Where’s Waldo?
As you no doubt recall, initially the search could seem quite intimidating: how to find one guy in a red and white striped shirt from among the teeming confusion of people and things — most of which were red and white, too! Really, was it worth the effort? Yet, almost unwillingly, you’d get caught up in the search, convinced that you could find him; certain that he was in there someplace.
Waldo wasn’t easy to spot; the task required closely focused attention. Each mistaken identification was a reward in itself, though: a cleverly drawn creature or encounter between persons — a familiar occasion or droll commentary on life as it is lived. The search turned out to be more than half the fun.
And, once he had been discovered, it turned out that Waldo had been hiding in plain sight. He was there, all along, just as we thought.
Where, O Where?
More than ever, we need to focus on the task of discovering God in our world. Faith is the conviction that God — like Waldo — is in here someplace, despite the chaos.
No, better: faith is the conviction that God is here, within the chaos. The divine is not a single experience — not an isolated event or individual — but the totality of All That Is. Holiness is all around us, and we will see it when we stop and look with faithful, joyful anticipation.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Blessed are your eyes, that see what you see” (Mt, 13:16; Lk 10:23).
Looking for Waldo enabled us to see past the crowds and confusion to discover individual characters; the same can be true as we search for God in this world of ours. We will see each and every person — really see them individually, not as a clump of “others” — and, knowing them to be made in the divine image, we will seek to find what is good and blessed within them.
Just as the search for Waldo turned out to be a lot of fun, our search for the Holy One will be, too. We just have to get started, and to believe that “He’s out there somewhere.”
May your search be rewarded, a thousand-fold!
Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,
This Week’s Suggested Spiritual Exercise
Look for what is holy, good, and hopeful.