THE CHRISTMAS CAROL O Holy Night calls the world weary. Some people will nod quietly in understanding. The world is displaying a particularly deep weariness of late; there seems to be a great open and festering wound.
- Some weeks ago a Malaysian passenger flight disappeared and has not been recovered.
- A second Malaysian flight was shot out of the air ~ recovery efforts obstructed by militants.
- Russia is invading Ukraine.
- Israel and Gaza are locked in great deadly violence.
- Ebola is spreading across Africa.
- Militant religionists are killing anyone not like themselves.
- Terrible racial problems surface in the United States after the shooting death of Michael Brown.
- One online article suggests WW III has already begun - China and the United States each poised to defend their consumption.
Jesus knows. The night of his Last Supper he prayed in the orchard where olive trees grow. He realized and bore all of this world's bitter rejection of God - the world's distaste for God spewed out over the millennia. It crushed Jesus and he sweated blood - the start of his passion. The next day this burden would be carried in his wounded hands, feet and side.
The wounds of Jesus are forever. He bore them in his Resurrection appearances. But now these wounds shine like rubies, Father Jim Janda wrote in his poem Russian Easter. Jesus forever carries these marks of identification with the world of wounds that are personal, economic, cultural, psychological, physical, spiritual, relational, moral, festering, tear-washed wounds.
In the hands of Jesus, the left and right hands of God reach into the world of wounds. In the feet of Jesus, God walks among the world of wounds. In the open side of Jesus there is new access to the heart of God.
I asked a hermit nun once, "What does a hermit do all day?" She answered at once, "A hermit reads the New York Times in the morning and then goes to pray." Anyone I've shared that statement with has looked askance. "Well, I don't know about that," one priest said.
But I get it. Of course, God has gone to a very great deal of trouble to come into and live with us in this blood-soaked, raped world. Jesus held this world then and holds this world still before the Father. I can't see how the Christian can be unaware of that God-embraced world and expect his/her prayer to be whole (holy).
I'd go so far as to suggest that the new prayer book is the newspaper and the screen bearing global news. Before the creation of the Internet, one Anglican minister kept a scrap book of news clippings that she'd cut and save as places for her prayer. But the prayer isn't a prayer of words - as if to tell God what to do about it all. Rather, the prayer is simply this: silent and heart-awake to the wounds of the world.
I'm struck by the number of people I'm meeting lately who have told me they don't read or hear any news. I can't comprehend this. "But it's all bad news anyway," someone said. That seems to be a claim for the ultimate luxury.
I'm suggesting a new prayer of the heart. Blessed are the pure of heart, Jesus teaches. Perhaps this pure heart is the heart that is vacated, cleaned out, purged of all the petty, selfish distractions and entitled attractions that keep life so cluttered there's no inner space left to know the wounded world outside my own tiny life-orbit.
The wounds of Jesus are a kind of cosmic shrine or sanctuary from which issues the divine kindness - a divine torrent (says the Preface of the old Mass for the Feast of the Sacred Heart) - a rushing flood of divine, abundant, gift-given kindness - the divine largess, the preface continues.
The prayer then is to ponder these things - to hold these things before the image shared at the head of this post. But perhaps we oughtn't approach the Jesus image until we have encountered the other images of radio, Internet and television screen. And may I suggest that some news stations are large corporate enterprises that double as entertainment or are full of contentious, politicized, hateful voices that only want to win an argument. Those sources cause us to lose our peace, thwarting a centered prayer.
The prayer becomes a pondering - like Mary who heart-considered the mysterious gifts of royalty, suffering and death the magi left for her baby.