We have been given a path to follow. It seems simple enough. It is to love.
We move from last week’s reflection on Love to this week, which asks of us to choose a path of love. We must reflect a little more on what, exactly, love means and what, exactly, our path means. I thought, maybe I would do this with a personal reflection.
I have a love of sacred places. A love of churches and and sacred places in other forms. The history of these places…not just the building and the art and the timeline of place, but the history of people, the little lives that create a place of sacredness. Shared, sacred place. We feel these places. There’s an energy to a place that holds the collective stories of a group of people’s joys and sorrows, coming together to be present with Grace. Places where we bear witness to, and with, one another. Places that bridge heaven and earth, the spiritual and the earthly.
I love that these places are always here for me. Places of refuge. Even if I sit quietly in the back row of an unfamiliar church in an unfamiliar place, I know I am welcome. Even if I don’t go, I know I could. These sacred places that rise up out of the financial districts and say: there’s something more. I love the various places that focus on “something more” that create such beauty in this world. Not just tangible beauty, but intangible.
Not everyone shares this love. Many people find the same places I find a sense of home in as unwelcoming places. Many people do not walk by, or into, these sacred places and find comfort.
I was heartbroken when Notre Dame burned. A lot of people were. But there were also a lot of people who felt that the money being used to rebuild the Cathedral could be better spent taking care of the poor and the marginalized. I do understand that point and I can not completely disagree with the sentiment. But my love of sacred places meant I supported the rebuilding of the Cathedral (in my small way). I point this out as a reminder that we differ in our loves, but it doesn’t have to be divisive. We’re different and that’s actually what’s powerful when we focus on Love. Just focus, do the work that comes from love, and let go of the petty battle of “who’s right”. Follow your Heart.
In my travels, I noticed more and more sacred places becoming empty, abandoned shells. One specific cathedral haunts my memories. Its broken windows empty of stained glass. Pigeons flying in and out of the building. Cooing as if to assure me that life goes on and there are still stories being lived out in the place. Maybe just as sacred. I found it hollow and sad. This place so full of memories of weddings and baptisms, funerals and bearing witness to, and with, one another lost. Laughter and tears. Faith and hope and love.
Some would say that Churches are outdated and that church buildings are unnecessary. I’ve heard this a lot in the past two years. Perhaps, those who feel this way carry a different story than I do. Different loves. Or perhaps, have had to change with the realities of where they are. It’s been sad to bear witness to sister churches closing their doors through covid, feeling the ache when, to me, it feels these sacred welcoming places are so much more needed. These beacons and communities of hope and light.
When I first moved here, I would drive by our community church and think of the memories held there. I drove by and hoped that the strong community here would keep it going. I was sure and certain that it was true and I wasn’t needed, but this place would be here for me. Because it’s important.
Over time, I thought: what happens if ten years from now this church is gone (like so many others) and I didn’t do my part? I loved sacred places and perhaps it was my turn to give back. To reciprocate that Love. I had a small part to play in the work to be done.
It was time to show up for what I loved. And I discovered that when you choose and show up…the path unfolds and the Universe works in Mysterious Ways.
Notice the storyline. In the beginning, it was about what can these sacred places do for me. How they were of comfort to, and for, me.
But the love that is asked of us is a bigger love; the Love of Reciprocity. Not one that’s only what can God, the Divine, the Universe do for me. That’s young love. A child in need of a parent for comfort and protection, but we grow and take on new roles. When it’s time, in our deepest loves, we give back.
You can see this evolution in the kids program. It begins with a relationship of comfort and love with Jesus. It continues with a relationship to one another and our church. Learning. Understanding. Eventually, it culminates with: how do we give back to what we have come to love? The kids will choose a path of Love to support as they too grow into a deep Love of Reciprocity.
We’re asked to love. We are asked to choose a path of Love and step onto the path. A choice can, will, and must be made for us to most effectively do Good Work in this world. We can not do it all. We can not do anything when we’re trying to do it all. But we can choose a path to bring our fullest attention and love to. Greatest evil of our time is trying to do it all, should and could, distraction, procrastination, being spread too thin, with our focus so scattered that we are never fully focused on what truly, truly matters.
Love and the reciprocity of Love. When we focus and choose, we are better able to see well and give well. We are better able to do our small part in what matters most to us.
We see Love as a Verb. Something we do and practice. We are not just the children of God, but the hands of God. The beloved of the Beloved.
When we choose our Love and our love deepens to become our focus for our life, it becomes something more. A love that’s not the usual, “as the world gives”, a short sighted, momentary, self centered, what can others (God) do for me, but something deeper, bigger, and reciprocal.
We choose a love, a path. Choose and confirm a path and we walk it with Love. Each of us. And together our Paths of truest love become a web of Love that connects us to one another, our faith, all faith, and the deepest Love that is the Biggest Mystery. The one that in this passage, we are asked to trust…