Once upon a time, Leonard Bernstein, following the assassination of John Kennedy, wrote his MASS. All great music tells a story and this production expressed a story of brokenness and healing – a story of life, death and resurrection – it was a celebration of the Mass in a very real and profound way.
Things get broken; a vase, a glass, a chair or an automobile. People are not things, but people get broken. Like things, people sometimes get fixed, but not always. People at times are broken from the time of birth – from where or when the are born. In the process of life, we experience broken part of the body, of the mind and of the spirit or heart. And we learn that we can break something with ease, while it takes time and effort to heal – to make whole that which is broken.
At the Mass, the priest repeats the words; “When you do this, remember me.” To remember is much more than simply recalling to memory. To remember is to make whole that which has been dismembered or torn apart. When we come together as a community, we re-member or heal that which has been broken. And things are broken so easily and without a whole lot of planning. Things are broken – all around us and within us as individuals and as communities. We experience brokenness when we insult others, demean or exclude them. We may not always intend to wound others, but instead live our lives un-conscious of them – un-aware of others because we get so wrapped up in ourselves and our own wants and fears.
The Teacher reminds us “to be forgiven as we forgive others.” To be forgiven requires that we become aware of the wounds that we have inflicted – either by action or lack of action. We are called to admit that we harm others. The Church that we are part of, in our human weaknesses and blindness, has wounded others throughout the ages; burning others at the stake, waging war, excluding and branding them. We have accepted slavery, racial segregation, sexism, and physical and psychological abuse of women and children as a matter of course for centuries. We have wounded others by our worship of dogmas and laws that stem not from the Gospel, but from the arrogance of power. We have worked hard to create institutions that worship obedience to power and authority, and in the process warped and stifled life – we have allowed and encouraged control and slavery over freedom.
Power is it’s own worst enemy. So often, those in positions of authority confuse power with authority. They forget how to listen to the hopes, dreams, fears and pain of others are look to be worshipped. The Common Good is ignored while the wants of those in power are fed.
One of the problems with all of this, is that when people are suffering the most or are starving and begging to be fed, they are pushed outside. Others who have lost their own sense of humanity gifts that they have received, look down of others. It is so easy to lose our own sense of being connected to all, when we see ourselves as set apart from them and superior to them. “Thank God I am not like these other sinners.” We don’t give thanks for the gifts that we have received along the our common journey, but instead give thanks that we are better off than those others.
One problem with all of this is that we have turned reality upside down. When we exclude and destroy others, we wound ourselves. We become the walking wounded; blind, but think that we can see. When we as a church are more concerned with the image of the institution than the wounds inflicted on children and women; on others from different religions, on the physically and/or mentally challenged, then we are deeply wounded – broken and in need of healing.
As we preach, healing demands recognition of the brokenness, all effort to heal the brokenness and failings and sincere efforts to bind the wounds and bringing healing and life to the world – not death. This is the mission than Jesus gave his disciples – and it is our mission. We, none of us, are better than anyone else. We share a common humanity; filled with darkness and light; with death and life. We are called to choose and then to take responsibility for our choices. We are called to become adult and responsible and in this to become more human. Jesus teaches us how to become more human – by following in his footsteps. He showed us how to move outside of self and to become an active participant in life that is eternal. We are called not to deny life to others, but to share the life that we receive in abundance with all that we encounter – to be the Christ in the world. Jesus spoke truth to power always when he confronted those who had no understanding of the law – that the law was to be the servant, not the master. And finally, he taught that the law was wrapped up in love – in giving life.
As a church, we are first of all, a community. A church is not the law, nor is it those in positions of authority. It is the people in all of their grand and beautiful diversity. – it is the people of God, gathered as one. We are called to proclaim the good news – of God’s loving embrace and presence in our world and in all of creation. We are called to give life; to feed the hungry, to give water to the thirst, to heal the wounded -wherever we find them, even along the road that we travel. We are not called to shake our fingers and them, judge and condemn them and then push them aside. We are called to embrace them, recognizing that we are them and they are us.