“….I came into the world to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” John 18: 37
(Note: I have faith in Jesus as a great prophet who loved his religious tradition. At the same time, I abhor acts of violence against Jews perpetrated by hateful and ignorant Christians who label all Jewish people as “Christ-Killers.” This Good Friday I will be repenting the recent killing of three people at two Jewish community centers near Kansas City, Kansas USA, and I will ask for conversion of heart for all of God’s people.)
Michelangelo’s resurrected Jesus leaps out of the tomb just as he tumbled out of Mary’s womb: a clean and unhindered human. This Friday many will hear the evangelist John tell the story of his passion once again. Jesus stands before Pilate and Caiaphas in the eye of a storm powered by fear. The power of truth lives in the spaces between his scant words: “I am.” “YOU say that I am a king.” “Why ask?” “I testify to the truth.” “I thirst.” “It is finished.”
At the end he substitutes the vulnerable silence of the manger for the strength in his few words truth. As we read Jesus’ responses, we can feel power emanate from his truth that is contemplated and lived. His experience is not unlike Martin Luther’s, “Here I stand, for I cannot do otherwise,” or Thomas a Becket’s “It is not given me to win you over, Henry; it is simply given me to say no.” Jesus is the unmoved mover, speaking sparingly but powerfully from the eye of the storm: “Here is the truth. I know it because I live it.” It proves to be too much for the power mongers.
And what of us? How does the witness of Jesus speak to us from John’s gospel on this Good Friday? Love truth. Seek it. Preach it. Preach it from the spaces between our eloquent words, where human traffickers and immigration officials, and yes, even legislators, will be confounded by its power. Only when we recognize truth, live it and preach it, does it belong to us and we to it.
John 19-19:42 New Revised Standard Version: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+18%3A1-19%3A42&version=NRSV
Photo Credit: “The Risen Christ” Michelangelo ca. 1513 black chalk drawing Collection The British Musiem, London, England
This poem comes as gift at midnight when it would not leave me alone until it was born.
Permit the sound of
A train at sea level
To escape through spaces between branches
And traverse hills to settle in my ears,
Where the clickclickclick blends
With the swishswishswish on I-5.
Permits the pristine sound of
Virgin truth to
Break through superficial debris,
And unlock the ears of consciousness
Where it couples with compassion
To awaken and prod the unsuspecting Soul.
© rita h kowats 2014
tree drawing by buchi-nei-calzini.blogspot.com – tumblr
to the world
that the world may see
who I am;
not the mask that hides my flaws
not the mask that hides my beauty.
I bask in the light and
I take off the mask.
– Jocelyn Soriano
Do you see what I see? Retired, and contemplative by nature, I have the time to dedicate an hour each morning to read posts relating to spirituality, poetry, justice, psychology, and LGBTQ concerns. I try to be present to bloggers’ experiences and expression. Often their stories stay with me throughout the day, and as I recall them I am in solidarity. A pattern has emerged which gives me hope in the midst of the incessant ego-driven political chatter and gratuitous violence our world continues to spew out.
This is the hope I see: a longing and a commitment to be real. Where my baby boomer generation learned to wear masks, the millennium, (generation “Y”) and generation “X” bloggers, are unafraid to show their mistakes, even their deepest wounds. I am not talking Dr. Phil Show here…What I read is not for show; rather, the sharing seems to come from an authentic desire to grow. They face the truth with courage. They do not wait for a guru to tell them their “truth.” They strip down until they find it themselves and they bask in their humanness instead of cowling in shame. When I was their age the false humility I was taught made me ashamed of being human and kept me from growing. The masks I wore became very heavy.
I put my hope here. Do you see what I see?
“Jonah” is a poem I wrote during the first Gulf War, which was raging during my tenure as a nonviolent resistor to the nuclear weapons at Subase Bangor in Puget Sound. Living beside the railroad tracks leading into the base, I witnessed monthly shipments of missile propellant fuel destined for Trident submarines. Admiral Trost said that the subs were necessary to “protect the lifestyle to which we had become accustomed.” Nevermind, that most people do not share that affluent lifestyle, and they are in poverty partly because taxes are allocated to these weapons, while food stamps are drastically cut. My spiritual practice is to try to live a lifestyle that doesn’t depend on the weapons to protect it.
The poem reflects the despair I felt then and now, but it offers hope that resistance can breed resistance. It was dedicated to Steve, a submariner who applied for, and received, conscientious objector status. We are called by conscience to go to Nineveh. Will we go?
How obscene that submarines slither through unseen.
Journalist to Pentagon briefer: “Sir, is it true that
A cruise missile was fired from a submarine?”
General Kelly: “We never discuss submarines.”
They slither through unseen.
As unseen as the bodies in Baghdad.
Today I sit on Hood Canal-
Mountains, sun, spring wildflowers.
Euphoric, here where
Submarines slither through unseen.
As if to confirm the paradox
Two patrol boats pass.
Do they escort the Leviathan?
I can’t hear it.
I can’t see it.
The beast breaks silence,
Its dark, hulking frame mimicking the
Great Orca of Puget Sound.
Shivering, shedding silent, shame-full tears…
When the beast descends this time
It goes down depleted.
Another Jonah has tumbled out,
And his “No” will echo forever in
The belly of the whale.
© rita h. kowats
I descend cracked concrete stairs into a tunnel that winds under the streets of NYC. I have some fear. It is very dark and feels hollow. I hear subtle rattling in the distance, the sound pinging off the damp walls, calling to me? With every step comes a commitment to the journey and curiosity about the destination. The longer I walk the louder the rattling. Light ahead. Closer…to what? Silence. I gingerly walk through an aperture and am greeted by several skeletons. Each one has a gold kiss on its cheekbone. Light from a crack in the tunnel’s ceiling wraps them in warmth. I feel embraced, welcomed, as if they have been waiting for me for a long time. I know I am home. There are so many questions: Who are they? Why are they here? Why have they waited for me? Who left the kiss on their cheeks? Before I can ask, one skeleton steps forward and offers me a loaf of bread, saying, “For the journey back up.” I don’t want to leave, but waking life intervenes and I “feel it in my bones” that the tunnel has brought me to the mountain top.
Bare Bones Truth filters into the soul
Between the tendons of our lives,
And like a hungry dog, doesn’t let go
Until it has done its work.
It gnaws down,
Seals us with its golden kiss,
And heaves us back into the thick of life,
Stark but strong.
My journey to the car wash this Fourth of July afternoon offered up a full spectrum of emotions. I had just spent an hour studying my friend Matt’s blog post about his experience of picking coffee in Columbia and listening to the plight of farmers displaced by multinational coffee corporations ( http://matthollandsj.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/one-more-cup-of-coffee-fore-i-go/) . In the car, my mind raced through facts about the injustices to people and environment, perpetrated to a large degree by the U.S. And my heart ached for the priest Matt said had been mutilated and murdered by the Columbian government because he stood in their way of amassing land from farmers to accommodate the multinationals. My Fourth hadn’t gotten off to a good start. Like Jesus, my spirit wept for my sins of waste and consumerism, and for the sins of my country.
First stop: the Shoreline Library, where I scanned the borrowed DVD’s and slipped them into the return bin. Such excellent films they were, all for free. There on the bench outside the entrance to the library, sat an aging Asian couple, laptop in hand and completely immersed in a program wi-fied to them, compliments of the library. Fireworks exploded in my heart. This is also America, I thought. Our tax dollars at work on behalf of this immigrant couple who possibly came here from Tibet, in search of their stolen freedom.
Last stop: a challenge. The 90’s offered up a biting satirical film starring Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Willie Nelson, and Woody Harrelson. It was called, “Wag the Dog.” It seems the president’s affair has hit the newsstand, so his chief of staff hires a Hollywood producer to create a war in Albania to divert attention from the affair. A “war hero” is conjured up and a patriotic song, “Old Shu,” is composed to rally all of America around the pretend-war effort. I swear. They played that song the duration of my tour through Walgreen’s. I was off again!
So, now for the spiritual practice necessary here. Never stop thinking. Never stop weeping over Jerusalem. But always seek the WHOLE truth, which embodies grace as well as sin.
Happy Fourth of July!