Let us always hold the sacred and the mystery in our lives. So we pray - Who are you, Lord my God, and who am I?”
Take a moment to reflect on this simple fact - You are created in the image of God. We carry the DNA of the creator of the universe. Allow the enormity of therealization to sink in. I am not speaking of physical characteristics - eyes, hair color, body shape or parts. Nor flowing robes and booming voice.
We carry the characteristics of God that cannot be described. So then, how would you describe them? Well, they have a tendency to make our hearts beat with joy, our minds expand with wonder, our souls filled with hope. Those little things like acceptance, joy, sorrow, forgiveness, love. I find myself deeply entranced withgoodness.
In Genesis, when God looked upon each creation, it was good. Yet, when God created us, it was Very Good. And it is true. Go out into any public place and look at people. It does not matter the sex, race, size or nationality, watch them smile. Not their laugh, but their smile. It comes naturally, effortlessly.
Their entire body changes, a softening, as if the divine moves out from them and into the world. I yearn to see the goodness in everyone and everything. So it seems that with each newscast, goodness seems unrealistic. A live-inboyfriend harms a 4 month old baby in the most unspeakable way. A struggling 15 year boy kills his 12 year old friend.
A 9 year old is kicked to death by the woman who gave him life. An 18 year old child of god is killed by another child of God in an unpronounceable region of Afghanistan. Our first reaction is anger, revenge, even hate. I have a relative who always responds with “Kill em.” He adds - they should be shot, hung, tortured, castrated.
While I try to understand my relatives rage, he also tends to categorize others on their race, social or legal status. The barriers he creates, makes it easy for him to objectify, differentiate, categorize. I wonder if he takes a moment to think about their being created in God’s image.
In reading the Gospel, I sense that Jesus while speaking in a kind, loving, and compassionate way, has a sense of urgency. Pushing his apostles to look at the world differently. Asking us to recognize the possibility, the divine goodness within us. We often forget the reality Jesus was facing. His world was just as violent, just as vengeful as the world we are living in.
And his followers have expectations of him. John the Baptist calls him the Messiah. All the years of oppression, murder, hate pent up among his followers and Jesus is the chosen one. It is time for payback and retribution. And then this beautiful man says: Forgive totally and Love completely. Take it and return it with goodness.
Imagine their reaction and disappointment. They want revenge and punitive justice. And who could blame them? Eye for an eye gives temporary fulfillment. Forgiveness? how does my need for an equal amount of violent retribution become satisfied? Jesus what are you saying? I can relate.
If someone would injure my family, my first reaction would be to retaliate. That proverbial fist would curl up. Isn’t that the easiest path? Yet following him, truly following him is never easy. It tests us, it makes us uncomfortable. We tend to ignore it, find reasons not to chose the tough Jesus option. Or as one anonymous saint wrote: It is easier to die for Christ than to live for him.”
Yet Jesus always shows us the way. Imagine the love in his eyes, for those who persecuted him, beat him, and nailed him to the cross. Through the pain, he focused on his tormentors goodness and asked the Father to forgive. It seems impossible and implausible, and isn’t it comforting that this is who we follow?
The disciples who originally questioned forgiveness, watched, listened and their lives became reflections of his goodness. How can we not try to do the same? Last week they aired the mug shot of the woman who kicked her son to death. No hope in her eyes. I thought of her as a young child, arms outstretched seeking security, love, goodness.
I am sure someone returned that innocent goodness with horrific violence. Despite what we think, or her horrendous act, I cannot help but believe in God’s goodness, through his tears, looks at her as his child and the goodness within her. Seems impossible and unfair, yet this is our amazing God.
Maybe a Lenten discipline is a simple prayer, Lord let me replace anger with goodness. Allow ourselves to lean into the heart of Christ and open our eyes and hearts. To seeking the goodness in ourselves and in one another. The longer we pray this prayer, I believe we can transform.
When we see the goodness in one another it becomes profound while anger and hate are less palatable. Evidenced in little ways: Maybe saying I love you when it is not like you to say it. Goodness within you
Putting our ego aside and not trying to win every argument. Not always wanting to be first or right. Goodness around you. Maybe saying to someone we live with or work with: Your smart, your beautiful, you look nice, You are good. The impact it has on a life, on that person because it comes from you. The seemingly impossible becomes possible. We develop the capacity to move from kill, hate, and retaliate to forgive, welcome, come into my arms, how can I help. Goodness evident in the world. It is who we are, who we were created to be.
The longer i spend on this earth the more I yearn for goodness. I would rather be disappointed in someone than not give them a chance. I would rather be hurt than not allow myself to see the goodness in everyone I meet. Whenever there is doubt, it is reaffirmed in little ways.
Recently I viewed a video of a group in Norway that assists children in Syria. They set up a hidden camera for the purpose of determining if people would help a child. The setting was an outdoor bus stop and it is snowing. A young boy has no jacket and is sitting in the cold. He is shivering, rubbing his arms.
Different people approach and one by one, young and old, rich and poor, male and female, all different races, respond to this boy with goodness. They take off their coats and gloves and give them to this child. With each layer they give to the boy, each glove, each coat, each scarf, the frost of the earth melts away and the warmth of goodness emanates from them.
The final shot is of the 2 of them sitting at the bus stop and it is snowing. The 20 year wearing only a t-shirt and the little boy wearing the jacket of the 20 year old. They are smiling at one another. The Kingdom of God
My brothers and sisters, look around, look at everyone you encounter today and take in that divine imagine of goodness within them. Maybe you can smile and others can sense your goodness. We are loved by a loving and good God. See it in yourself and in one another. When we know goodness, we know love, and in doing so, we meet Christ.
And in case you do know it or have not been told - You are good. I love those smiles and the goodness in each one of you gives me hope for that beautiful Kingdom of God. Amen