“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them and be their God;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
Rev. 21:3-4 (NRSVUE)
One of the marks of the fall season is the change of the leaves' colors. It is a fascinating process that illustrates the reality of passages in life. The combination of colors that go from green to yellow, from yellow to orange, from orange to red, and from red to brown, remind us of our life and mortality.
The brownish colors of the fall also tell us that we are experiencing aging, and changes in our lives. Falling leaves that glide in the air also resemble times when our hopes seem to fall away from us.
The past year, and especially the past month have been one of those chapters in history that make us feel that death and hopelessness have taken over life. Old wars, newly started wars, and wars in the making lead me to think of leaves falling to the ground lifeless as thousands of people die, or their hope is annihilated by the powers that profit from war.
A couple of weeks ago a handful of people approached at different times to tell me that they were distressed and restless by the war in the Middle East. They expressed their disorientation and confusion: “How should we pray?” “What can I do?” “I cannot bear it in my heart!”
It calls to my attention that mainstream news outlets spend a tremendous amount of time instilling their political agendas and biases in the minds and hearts of people pushing them to take sides and fight among themselves. So the question for me is, “how is the Lord calling us to offer guidance, hope, and comfort to one another?”
How can we provide spiritual care and guidance? The writer of the book of Revelation says that it is only in God that we can find comfort and peace to be able to discern and wisely make decisions about how faith leads us to take actions that reflect God’s intent for all creation, shalom.
We read, “... and God himself will be with them and be their God; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.” We can be in those places where the horror of war has ended lives, or other places where the powerful have snatched hope from people’s hearts, or homes where a loved one has died to an illness or other causes. However, we can live lives with words and actions that bring life, hope, and encouragement. We cannot end words with prayers only, maybe the Lord is calling us to take actions that call out our politicians and elected officials to stop warmongering policies that perpetuate wars or start new ones.
Faith is no politics, but faith has political implications because living out the gospel challenges systems and structures that seek self-preservation no matter what it takes, even the deaths of ordinary people and the destruction of the environment. John, the writer of the Book of Revelations, was exiled to an island as a result of the occupation and dominance of the Roman Empire. He knew what it meant to be under a regime that proclaimed “Pax” (Peace), but such peace was imposed by eliminating anyone who did not agree with the Empire. He however turns to God’s promise. He found the guidance, orientation, and assurance that God’s reign will eventually overcome evil, suffering, oppression, and destruction.
Yesterday was All Saints Day, a time to remember that we all have limited life on earth. Death is real, and our lives gradually change and eventually end. There is not much that we can do, but to live a life that points to the source of true life, and hope. For “mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
May the Spirit comfort, guide, and strengthen you on this day as we remember those who have departed here and abroad, and those who in baptism have begun a faith journey. And, may the Lord transform us to be able to see his presence in every person. Let me conclude with these words of Thomas Merton:
“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”