Today, the day of our publication for this blog, is St. Valentine’s Day, the love-laden, optimistic day that reminds many to acknowledge the love or loves of their lives and to express it with small gifts of – well, you guessed it: flowers, candy, cards, dinner and maybe a concert or a movie all of which engage two people to bond even deeper into what might become, or is, a beautiful commitment.
But we give parents and friends Valentine gifts as well. It is not just a romantic day, but a totally loving day! This past week, I sat with two friends at a retirement center and they became engaged in the question of God’s love. Jack was raised in the Orthodox Jewish tradition but Molly, a co-resident, was raised in Reform Judaism. Our discussion evolved into considerations of God’s place in our lives. I don’t think God has a ‘place’ as such, I said. “Well, then, where is God?” they asked me so simply and beautifully and I tried to address it (not answer it) by touching their hearts and saying “God is the loving being who is in here. God resides here, in your heart and in your soul. And God waits for you to say ‘hello’ and recognize God’s presence in your very own heart comfortably waiting for that ‘hello.’” The silence almost overwhelmed me. We were in a busy lobby of a senior citizen campus on a snowy day and talking about God and God’s love for these two people and all of humankind. And yet silence filled the room. We found ourselves in a bubble of wonder.
So often silence fills our souls and minds when we suddenly become cognizant of God’s presence. We don’t know what to say. Should we say anything? Should we just sit with the delight of having felt this presence? And, if God is in each of us, God must also be in every human being, a resident of total love asking to be loved in return.
A recent blog post from Fr. Richard Rohr centered on the meaning of ubuntu, defined in its Zulu translation as “a person is a person through other people.” In the post, Dr. Jacqui Lewis says “we are each impacted by the circumstances that impact those around us. What hurts you, hurts me. What heals you, heals me.” Lewis suggests channeling the concept of ubuntu “…to engineer a badly needed love revolution to rise up out of the ashes of our current reality.”
Lewis is right. A ‘love revolution’ is what we truly need today. Jack and Molly concluded that if we recognize God in our own hearts first, we will eventually see God in the hearts of others. We will love with empathy. If we learn to talk to the God within us, we will know how to talk to the God in others. We will know how to serve the God in others. We will help this broken, often loveless world, heal itself from the wreckage of its consuming, volatile self-interest. We will move from protection to openness and from fear to courage.
So what does one say to the God within? You might try something like, “I know you are here. I know you love me. You have known me from my mother’s womb. Help me to be loving and good to others. Help me to see You in them.” For centuries, spiritual advisers have suggested one need only sit quietly, hands open, eyes closed, and simply wait.
Soon, your conversations with God will become friendlier, more intimate, more relational. Yes, you can just sit with God. You do not always need words. You can praise just by being open to God. In effect, you are channeling ubuntu; you are letting the power of Presence seep into your soul and take over your heart. You are contributing to the ‘love revolution.’
For those of you who want to read authors who guide us in this exploration, try the mystic, Julian of Norwich, or the Trappists, Fr. Thomas Keating and Thomas Merton. You can email me for other suggestions. Perhaps you have some you can share on our comment section.
I hope you explore the concept of ubuntu as well. The writings of the recently deceased Thich Nhat Hanh are marvelous for insight and technique. Take the readings to your prayer, then put them aside and wait. Pray without words. God will come.