As I traveled along the frontage road with a growing number of vehicles, I realized that I would sooner or later come upon the scene of an accident, obviously a very bad one.
When I saw the wreckage, there was no doubt in my mind that lives had been lost. The next day, reading the newspaper account, I learned that a car had veered across into the oncoming traffic, gone airborne and plowed through another vehicle. A mother and son, died when this vehicle tore off the roof of their car and destroyed the entire front end.
I was confronted, as we all are periodically, with the fragility of life and just how little control we have over it. This woman and child were doing nothing wrong. They were obeying the traffic rules. Yet in moments their lives were hideously ended.
They had no time to reflect on a life well or ill lived. No time probably to even say a short prayer. They were no more.
Nothing in this life is guaranteed. Our wealth can be snatched from us in mere moments due to an economic catastrophe. Our health can decline with suddenness or with relentless deterioration. Our loved ones can depart willingly or otherwise. So too our friends. We may lose jobs, homes, beauty, pets. We can lose our country to war or invasion. We can lose our world to pollution.
The great Shema of the Jewish faith teaches us that what is most important in our lives can only be God.
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God,
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your strength.
We are similarly reminded in the Psalm 18:
R. (2) I love you, Lord, my strength.
I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
My God, my rock of refuge,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
The LORD lives! And blessed be my rock!
What is it that we are reminded? While all is temporary, subject to loss or change, only God is forever. Only God can never be taken from us. Only God is faithful, ever-loving, ever-present. You can be denied your bodily freedom either through incarceration or disease, but no one can take God from you. No one can eradicate your belief or your love.
In the end, God is all you have. It is why I so feel sorrow for those who deny God or deny the possibility. I do not feel sorrow because they will be eternally apart from God, because I don’t lay such a human punishment upon them. I refuse to believe that God works in that manner. In any case, it is God who will decide such things, not me.
What I sorrow for is the loss of comfort God affords us. We are never alone. And as thinking beings, surely each of us has at some moment realized that no other human being can take away the utter aloneness that being an individual entails. We are shaken to our core when we realize that no spouse, child, parent, or friend can ever penetrate our inmost being. We remain self-contained vessels. The agony of such a realization is only ameliorated when we realize that God can and does penetrate. God does live with us. God does hold us in love through the trials of life.
Jesus said that this Shema was the greatest commandment. The next was to love our neighbor as ourselves. On these two rest all the others.
As we approach Tuesday and exercise our responsibilities as citizens to elect leadership for our country, we should remember this. We love God and we express that love by loving our brothers and sisters in this country and around the world. To love our neighbor means to empathize, to sympathize, and finally to be compassionate toward our neighbor. We must take on his and her burdens and make them our own. We must not think just of ourselves and our own well-being but what is best for the greater good.
No better explanation of this can be found than at my dear friend Tim’s blog, Straight-Friendly. He explains the differences between empathy, sympathy and compassion far better than I, and reminds us that we owe it to ourselves and most especially to God to make our choices on Tuesday wisely and with a spiritual vision guiding us.
May God bless you in your choosing.
- The Highest Mystical Truth: We and Our Neighbors Are Identical with God (mikerivageseul.wordpress.com)
- Love – more than a feeling; it’s a commandment. (mum6kids.wordpress.com)
- Love the Lord (cofchristdailybread.wordpress.com)
- Hear, O Israel! (pegconway.com)
- Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B (doohan.id.au)
- Pslam 18 (psalmss.wordpress.com)