Back in the biblical day it was custom for Rabbis to summarise their teaching in a prayer. Therefore what we call The Lord’s Prayer, is more than likely Jesus’ teaching summary. A summary that Jesus’ followers are invited to meditate on and act on. The core of Jesus’ teaching summary focuses on the need for daily bread and the forgiveness of debts. In other words, justice and mercy are central to the Jesus-way of Life-Giving-Living.
Story after story in the Gospels invite us to grow in justice and mercy and to do so not only with our neighbours but also with our enemies. In short, with everyone.
This seems impossibly difficult, yet many of us are both recipient and practitioner of this Jesus-way of Life-Giving-Living on a micro scale maybe without even realising it. In every loving family Life-Giving-Living is practiced through the sharing of daily bread and the forgiveness of debts. Without fair sharing and repeated forgiveness a family would not last.
Returning to Jesus’ teaching summary, we are reminded that it begins with the words: “Our Parent…” Jesus’ teaching begins by informing us that we belong to one human family. To call God “Our Parent…” is to recognise that we are each other’s siblings. Jesus’ teaching summary invites us to claim this as the real reality of every relationship we are in. Jesus knows that unless we are able to recognise each other as family we will not be able to practice the justice and mercy necessary for Life-Giving-Living. The saving of the world will be determined by those who trust and live out the truth of this three letter word OUR.
From Jesus’ perspective of universal family, the language of “love of one’s own” or “these are my people” or “God is on our side” is made obsolete. This language often defines “one’s own” or “my people” or “our side” by nationality, language, culture, skin colour, religion, etc. It leads to the feeling, “When I walk the streets of the Johannesburg CBD, I become a foreigner in my own country”. And this leads to the slogan, “Put South Africans First”. And this leads to the formation of Operation Dudula. It is the language of nationalism, sectarianism, xenophobia and war. It is the language of Vladimir Putin. It is also the language of many of us.
For this reason Jesus kept opening the eyes of the blind. The blind being those of us who fail to recognise a sister and brother in the person next to us and across the way from us. On this Transfiguration Sunday let us pray for our eyes to be opened that our seeing of each other may be gloriously transfigured. This was the amazing gift given to Thomas Merton in Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut … may it happen to us.
“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness. The whole illusion of a separate holy existence is a dream…
“This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud…. It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, though it is a race dedicated to many absurdities and one which makes many terrible mistakes: yet, with all that, God Himself (sic) gloried in becoming a member of the human race. A member of the human race! To think that such a commonplace realization should suddenly seem like news that one holds the winning ticket in a cosmic sweepstake…
“There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun… There are no strangers! … If only we could see each other [as we really are] all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed… I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other…
“At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is so to speak His name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our sonship (sic). It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely.
“I have no program for this seeing. But the gate of heaven is everywhere.”