I read a story from NPR (National Public Radio) this week, about a carnival in Brazil where 7,000 men in white turbans fill the streets, ‘a sea of white cloth on black skin, flowing and bobbing to the music of hand drums, cowbells and chants of praise’. Called the Filhos de Gandhy, peace is their philosophy, underlying everything they do, trying to bring it to the masses. They also forbid members to consume alcohol or drugs during marches. It is done to keep the peace… not a matter of keeping pure. (Did I mention that women come from all over to meet them, because they find that appealing?) Anthropologists speak to their ability to move between diverse cultures, taking international elements and transforming them into something local.
In Luke’s gospel, the points are clear: be compassionate, don’t judge, forgive, give to the poor. By whatever degree you do these things, it will be given back to you….maybe not here on this earth, but certainly when we meet God after this life. None of these things comes easy, we’re only human after all… Jesus asks us to love our enemy, but to love our enemy is not Natural. Why? Because it’s Supernatural! So the message is clear, don’t stop at the easier love, but go on to the harder and do it because God does it, even to the unthankful and evil.
I am leaving for a two week trip to Uganda, in an effort to get closer to the victims of war and abuse. I don’t expect it will help me understand violence or be mentally prepared to forgive those who have committed unconscionable atrocities. And because I understand that my beliefs are a function of past conditioning and experiences, I fear I will find it difficult to be open minded. But I know my reason for going there is to see the face of Christ; I am reminded of Fr.Gary Smith, SJ, author of “Radical Compassion”, who says, ‘the mystery of grace is mediated through concrete situations’; the more concrete, the more powerful.
“For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
Whether you are marching in the streets of Brazil touting peace, or travelling to third world countries to grapple with the incomprehension, the vision is, that what the whole world needs is love. We can do this in our everyday life when we start to think differently about someone we don’t like or when we hesitate to speak badly of another because we’ve been conditioned to do so from past experience. Transform something international and make it local…then maybe we can be more open to the kind of love that is God’s.
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