“As the Russian Patriarch and the Pope huddle right now inside Havana airport, I keep thinking of the old Yiddish proverb: ‘Two mountains can’t come together, but two people [mensches] can. – A barg mit a barg kumt zikh nit tsunoyf, ober a mentsh mit a mentshn yo.’ – Meaning: There is always a way for people to find common ground.” My friend Dina Tsoar, on Facebook today
Today I woke up very early and I immediately went to my phone to read more about the unprecedented meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis that took place in Havana yesterday. While this seems a blip in the news to most of the world, this is incredibly significant. I suppose if you are reading this blog, you will be inclined to agree, but I’m astounded by seeing more photos of Pope Francis in a sombrero on social media, than with Patriarch Kirill!
The full text of their joint declaration, an almost unimaginable thing, can be found at this link. Their prayers and pleas for unity, peace, justice, and more are quite moving and are worth the time it will take to read the declaration. It is astounding and a cause for joy! Remember that Jesus came so that as Jesus said: “so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”
As it happens, I wrote the daily reflection in Give Us This Day today. Now these assignments can come up to a year in advance, so I it was done some time ago, and who knew that this moment would be in the news. When I wrote it, my entire focus was on the Gospel from Luke, I can’t remember why, but I recall that nothing about the first reading from Isaiah spoke to me at all. Today, that is all that spoke to me as I read those same words in prayer!
Aside from the obvious admonition to keep holy the sabbath in Isaiah, no small task in our 24/7 world (there’s a great Lenten reflection that I missed!) I was struck by this:
Thus says the LORD:
If you remove from your midst oppression,
false accusation and malicious speech;
If you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
He will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.
The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake,
and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;
“Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you,
“Restorer of ruined homesteads.”
If I had the time, I could write quite a bit about false accusation and malicious speech – just consider the news coming from the election cycle. Are we so excited to throw our support to candidates who make a point of being malicious? This is one of the more attractive points of at least one of them, one who allegedly wants to restore greatness to our country. Through hate speech? Next up we see bread for the hungry, another vastly unpopular position – you want food, you work for it, is the mantra we hear from many. Essentially, Isaiah’s words call us to be very different from who and what we typically are. It is no surprise that we hear these words at the beginning of Lent.
If through our Lenten practices we can follow the ways of God, offering service, food, justice then it seems that “ancient ruins shall be rebuilt.” Will you be called a “repairer of the breach?” Might I become a “restorer of ruined homesteads?” Consider this against the backdrop of the historic meeting of the Pope and the Patriarch and suddenly – at least for me – the call to change rings loudly in my heart.
Anyway, as you can tell, I am a little excited about this news, and for lots of reasons.
How can we use this as a great prompt for our Lenten journey? Let us start here, how can we avoid malicious speech? How can we bestow bread upon the hungry? How can we perhaps not be so disdainful about the poor, the oppressed? Some of us, and our nation at large, is often inclined to inclined to eye-rolling and critical commentary at the mention of assistance to those in need. If we can’t agree about health care for all, how can we satisfy the afflicted? The list goes on and on, and I see the mirrored vision of the prophet Isaiah and our political discourse. Then the image of Francis and Kirill embracing. What a contrast! For me, Francis and Kirill become living representation of Isaiah’s words in today’s Scriptures.
Feeling as if my Lent has gotten off to a very slow start, I wonder if this is one of the many “follow me” moments such as the one heard in Luke’s Gospel today? Of course it is. Can I drop it all to forego malice? Suspend judgement? Help those in need? Whether I can do this or not, whether you can do this or not, that is what we are called to do. This meeting of two men has changed the game considerably and I want to change with it. With that, my Lenten journey continues. Please come with me, I can’t do it alone.
(This is one of those blog posts so hastily written that I am pretty sure I will cringe when I look back at it. That said, my joy is deep and wide this day. And if you are a first time reader, please know that you are welcomed with joy. Also know that I am not always this rambling… but sometimes I am! Welcome!)