An obvious truth that applies equally to personal and political patterns of behaviour: unless we learn from the mistakes of the past, we condemn ourselves to repeat them.
Lent is a season of grace giving an enhanced opportunity to discover what this means. Grace is the influence of God felt within the autonomy and freedom that is essential to our being. We exist: in our daily problems, joys, sorrows, ageing, mistakes and good luck, moods, impermanence and faithfulness. But we wouldn’t exist if we didn’t first have Being. Our existence depends upon the gift of Being which is the self-sharing of God who is the source of being. Grace is the influence of Being felt and working through our existence. When we mess up our existence, in individual failures or in geo-political criminality as in Ukraine, grace works to restore a harmony between existence and being, Martha and Maria. The strange thing is that because of the divine nature of all being human freedom is respected even under the influence of grace. We are helped but never compelled.
Another strange thing is how the social-global scale of human existence parallels our personal struggles and self-doubts. What is happening in us when we battle with an addiction and repeat destructive patterns of behaviour sheds light on what happens when we try to destroy the freedom of a sovereign country with brutal and mindless violence.
At the core of the teaching of Jesus and other universal enlightened souls is the crystal-clear wisdom that violence is a profanation of our common humanity and a crime against the sacred nature of creation. It dis-orders the cosmos. The consequences of violence point to this truth throughout history and cultures. There are circumstances when violence is tragically necessary, as a response, to defend oneself or the innocent. But even this kind of legitimate violence shames us to some degree. It must be controlled, have consciously defined goals and be ended as soon as possible. In some way it also needs forgiveness.
To resolve this moral question requires clear and deep consciousness. To maintain a conscious state of mind even as we are justifiably defending ourselves, it helps us to see the connection between the individual and the social, between existence and Being. For example, a self-harming addiction like drug or alcohol abuse, over-work or self-trivialisation produces the same pattern of failure as when a stronger country invades and lay waste another. The addiction patterns of vodka or violence point to the same failures and call for the same experience of learning from our mistakes.
Thought, reflection and conversation help us to understand. But meditation directly unhooks us from daily existence and thinking and drops us into the heart of Being. There, the truth we need to learn awaits us and grace helps us to use our Godlike freedom to accept it.
Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2022