In our first reading today we hear, “You duped me, Lord….” Another translation, the Jerusalem Bible has, “You seduced me Lord, and I let myself be seduced.” I was a grown man, 31 years old before I heard these words from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, in October 1965. Thomas Merton read them to a small group he had called to his monastery, the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemane in Kentucky. Merton was then and remains now, 43 years after his death, the most widely read spiritual writer in the English language. He gathered leaders of the growing peace movement (A.J. Muste, Dan Berrigan, Jim Forest, John Howard Yoder, W.H Ferry and three or four others. Phil Berrigan showed up on the last day, with a case of beer.) The war in Viet Nam was just heating up. The public still supported the war but some of us felt very differently.HT: Jim Forest
Merton called us to answer this question: By what right can we raise our voices against this war? Merton answered the question himself through the words of Jeremiah we just heard. To paraphrase: “You tricked me, Lord. I didn’t know what I was getting into speaking your word. I don’t want to do it anymore Lord. You’ve made me a laughing-stock. I make up my mind that I will speak for you no longer. But then it’s like a coal burning in my chest and I have to speak, to let it out.”
We did it because we had to. It was uncomfortable, even dangerous, given the temper of the times. A young friend of mine, a nineteen year old boy, had just been beaten to death on a street in Rochester for wearing the peace symbol, that’s all, the same symbol that you see everywhere now. (Graham Carey carved Ivan Johnson’s headstone on a hill in Truro, on Cape Cod, overlooking the spot where his ancestors first made landfall on the Mayflower, in 1620.) Soldiers in Viet Nam would be painting it on their helmets just three years later, when they and public opinion changed. But then, in 1965, it was another story.
We took comfort in Saint Paul’s advice we also just heard. “Do not be conformed to this age.” Don’t fall in step. March to a different drummer. “Be transformed by the renewal of your understanding so that you may judge what is God’s will, what is good, pleasing and perfect.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Don't be conformed to this age. Don't fall in step. March to a different drummer.
UPDATE: the complete homily from which this was taken is posted on Tom's website here:
I'm struck by Jeremiah's image of the hot burning coal in the chest and the Zen concept of MU:
"What is Mu? ... Do not believe it is the common negative symbol meaning nothing. It is not nothingness, the opposite of existence. If you really want to pass this barrier, you should feel like drinking a hot iron ball that you can neither swallow nor spit out."
From yesterday's homily by Tom Cornell, a deacon serving at St. Mary's parish in Marlboro NY:
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