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Look on in wonder and silence

How are we to shape parish communities to live in the face of paradox and contradiction? How might we help people consider the current political world along with the day-by-day decisions and actions of their individual and family lives?


There are two pieces of reading I've been doing in recent weeks. One is Esther de Waal's Living with Contradiction. It's her exploration of Benediction spirituality and how it is used by some to live with stability and integrity in a complex world. A world that is loaded with contradictions and often bad choices. The second is by General Anthony Zinni, USMC (ret.). Before the First Shots are Fired looks at his experience and understanding of how our country gets itself into wars. He notes that from WW II to 1973 we engaged in 19 military deployments (combat and humanitarian) and from 1973 - 2013 we engaged in 144 such acts.


Zinni thinks we get into all this because as a people we carry a contradiction in our soul. Our values about freedom and democracy have moved in two different directions -- at times we just want to be a beacon for other nations and at other times we want to crusade for those values -- beacon vs. crusader. The first is a desire to keep to ourselves and not get entangled with the rest of the world; be the best we can be and hope that influences others. The second is a desire to be a responsible nation among other nations and to assist others. 


Zinni thinks that we need to learn how to learn from what we do, including our mistakes. We need to be more reflective and open.


de Waal writes about our need to stand firm and yet also to move forward. She sees Saint Benedict having great confidence in our ability to use our natural gifts and free will in service and that we can't do anything good unless God fills us with grace (a rather Christmas season thought). She writes -


if I can enter into this paradox and incorporate these elements into my life I shall escape that passivity that encourages me to do nothing at all and hand everything over to God, or that terrifying compulsion of over-activity that come from reliance upon my unaided self.


I think this is a season of political certainty (on both sides). I know I'm caught within my own Democratic impulses to find things about the President elect to be annoyed by and to make fun of. And yet, I can't help but hope that along the way he'll get a few thing right. It's impossible for any of us to get it right all the time. I deeply appreciate President Obama's capacity for steadiness and reflection. And, at times I've wished he would just get on with it, take action. Mr. Trump doesn't seem like a very reflective man (an understatement). So, I'll hope he'll listen to James Mattis and John Kelly.       
I think my task in all this is to be a citizen -- to pray for the nation and its leaders, for justice and truth; to stay informed; and to vote in each and every election. 


For me it's all wrapped up in the best paradox of all -- the fully divine, fully human baby in a manger and man upon a cross. And what I get to do, before I do anything else, is look on in wonder and silence.