Thursday, July 13, 2006

Thoughts for the Road

As I prepare to leave for a month in Argentina, the headlines scream their daily litany of madness and chaos: Thousands are dying in India, Iraq, Israel, Sri Lanka, Cechnya, Palestine and Lebanon. Death and destruction is threatened for Syria, Iran and North Korea. The world's leaders bellow like bullies on a schoolground, threatening & shouting & whacking the other when their back is turned. What's a poor human being, who just wants to get along, to do?

In the Gospel reading from Mark today, Jesus gives his disciples their traveling orders for the road. As they go along, they should say "the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Fat lot of good that would do them now, in the 21st century. Who would believe them? Then he tells them to perform a few miracles: Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. That might help. I'd like someone to cure Noel who is suffering the effects of a stroke. Or raise Peter from the dead. I miss him. As for the demons, Luke has them in spades and could use a little exorcism along with the psychotherapy and medication. I saw lepers in Bangkok and they could use their fingers and toes back. But when I google the news, these miracles are few and far between.

"As you enter a house, wish it peace," Jesus tells his disciplines before they head out into the countryside. I wish peace for the house of Ofelia Gonzalez who will be my hostess in Buenos Aires during the coming month. She lives on the third floor of an apartment building on Avenida Santa Fe in the district of Palermo which should be not too far from my classes at the Universid de Belgrano. I look forward to the people and places I will meet in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, and wish them peace. This peace among strangers might be the closest we will get to the kingdom of heaven in this life.

In my men's group this week we talked about faith and hope. We're all a bunch of cantankerous old lefties and hope is often hard to find. Earlier I'd seen the manifesto for global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," for the second time, and I was not very hopeful about the fate of the planet. There is an intimate connection between faith and hope, but which comes first? In the letter to the Hebrews, we Christians are told: "Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see." I do not see the end of the world, but I expect it, considering what humans are doing to her. But I think of faith as a fundamental trust in reality, in the deepest sense. Existence, incarnation, is meaningful. And though we won't get out of here alive, our presence in time is not a random accident.

Take care, northern hemisphere, as I slip into the south. Watch out for those bullies, particularly Bush and Israel's Olmert who don't know the meaning of "collateral damage" or "innocent civilian." Don't start Armaggedon or World War Three (or Four or Five) until I get back.

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