“It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss— This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination,…
O Lord of life, the God of our salvation, who bears our burdens: Our lives and world have once again been shaken by violence and gunfire; this time in Las Vegas. We are weary because of our groaning. Every night we flood our bed with tears and drench our couch with weeping. Our eyes waste away with grief. Our spirit shakes with terror. How long, O Lord, how long?
Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, grant your people grace to renounce gladly the vanities of this world; that, following the way of blessed Francis, we may for love of you delight in your whole creation with perfectness of joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Richard knew a “secret, a very simple secret.” He knew and trusted that “it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, chapter xxi)
That is the secret that sustains us through our losses and gives hope on this day. It is the secret that makes life beautiful, relationships meaningful, and conversations extraordinary. It is the secret that lifts us up to see further and cleanses our eyes to see more clearly. It is the secret all our sacred scriptures try to teach us. It is a secret open to everyone and hidden from no one, but only those with eyes to see will understand it.
Today we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23). Today the familiarity, poetry, and beauty of the 23rd psalm have a different tone. The shadow is dark and the valley is long and deep. I will not mislead you by denying that reality or letting platitudes and sentimentalities echo off the valley’s walls. That doesn’t help anyone. The valley is real and the shadow is here. That does not mean, however, that you and I are without hope. Let me be clear about this. That does not mean we are without hope.
Are you familiar with songlines? Songlines are a part of the aboriginal life. The aborigines tell a creation story in which creation ancestors wandered the continent singing out the name of everything that crossed their path – birds, animals, plants, rocks, caves, desert brush, waterholes – thereby singing the world and all creation into existence. It’s akin to Adam naming the animals (Genesis 2:19-20). The paths their ancestors charted are called songlines.
In every life there is a songline waiting to be sung. We all have one. We may each sing in different keys and use verses particular to our lives but it is the same song. It is the primordial melody of God carrying God’s eternal Word for each of our lives.
The boat of our life is far from land right now. The night is dark, the waves are high, and the wind is strong. There is every reason to be afraid but I don’t want to live in fear and I don’t want you to either. I want us to see the light that shines in the darkness of this night, a light the darkness cannot overcome. I want us to hear the waves slapping against the bottom of Jesus’ feet as he walks toward us. I want us to feel the wind of change. I want us to make room in the boat for Jesus.
We all have an Esau. Individuals, communities, parishes, religious orders, nations, you, and me – we all have an Esau. I am not talking about a literal Esau but a symbolic and metaphorical Esau. That does not mean, however, that Esau is not real. He is absolutely real. Esau is the face of our past guilts and regrets. Esau is the temptation to believe that we are not enough and we need to be someone or something else. Esau is our fear of the future. Esau is the one with whom we wrestle in the depths of our soul to discover our true name and identity, and to find the blessing that is uniquely ours.