Daily Reflection
October 12th, 2005

Joan Blandin Howard

Christian Spirituality Program
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

Romans 2:1-11
Psalm 62:2-3, 6-7, 9
Luke 11:42-46

“You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.”

One of my most favorite outings is to walk cemeteries, graveyards. I have explored many: Pere Lachaise in Paris, a Jewish cemetery in Manheim, Germany, an above ground cemetery in Puerto Rico, a lovely pre-Civil War cemetery in Harper’s Ferry, VA, an Iowa Mormon cemetery, and small cemeteries on Cape Anne, MA. I am fascinated by them and even more so when I discover an abandoned cemetery being resurrected, restored, and brought to new life.

Cemeteries offer a unique perspective on history and a very human glimpse into the joys, sorrows, trials and tribulations not only of those buried, and of times past, but also of signs of our own time. The very famous Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris is a who’s who of history: from the poorest to the wealthiest, from the respected to the despicable, from Abelard and Heloise to Moliere to Jim Morrison. It is a city of the dead, but not of the forgotten. Thousands of visitors a year come to pay respects, gaze on the marvelous statuary, and to reflect as they follow the narrow winding pathways. The Manheim Jewish cemetery, one of Europe’s oldest, is very much alive. Prayerful relationships are reflected in the balanced spires of tiny pebbles resting atop markers inscribed with names, dates, relationships and sometimes personal tragedy. Numerous tiny scrolls have been reverently tucked into nooks and crannies of mournful monuments. A picturesque pre-Civil War cemetery in Harper’s Ferry echoes the tale of grief and sorrow as disease took the lives of many infants and children. A Mormon cemetery overlooking the Missouri River tells of the westward movement and the conjoining of families. Cape Ann has several lovely cemeteries with children’s markers adorned with winged smiley faces. Tender celebrations of infant lives cut short by disease and daily hardship. “Hasta Luego, Luke!” bids a hearty farewell in the San Juan, Puerto Rico cemetery

Walking through these serene resting places, I regularly feel the freedom of an expansive tension-free peace. It is a peace that comes not from a sense bygone tragedy, but a vibrant, living peace that encompasses all. To walk through a cemetery and inadvertently step on an unseen grave or an unmarked grave fills me with deep sadness. I want to know:

Who is buried here?
What is their story?
Who is to mourn this person?
I want to be connected to them.

For Jesus to say to the Pharisees in response to their ongoing judgmental criticism, “You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk” is tragic. It feels like a never-ending condemnation. It is a dark and lifeless prophesy.

Jesus’ words are cautionary. We are not to judge. It is for God alone to judge.
“…God loves us as sinners and …the task of Christianity is not to teach us how to live, but to teach us how to live again, and again, and again.” (Ronald Rolheiser; Forgotten Among the Lilies pg. 145.)

The good-news is that our God loves me unconditionally and forgives me and brings me to new life again, and again, and again! Thanks be to God!

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