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home : opinion : perspectives

5/11/2017 9:00:00 AM
Bridging Earth Day, Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday

Some years ago, I took a group of adults with developmental disabilities to a Mets game at Shea Stadium in New York City. The highlight of the trip was the airplane ride from Albany to LaGuardia. None of the travelers had ever been on a plane. It was a cloudy day, but once the plane pierced the cloud cover, a brilliant blue sky and bright sun greeted us.

Ira, sitting next to me, exclaimed with joy: "We are in heaven. God lives up here!"

He was right. The view from the sky was brighter than the view below. Things look quite different when you are floating 36,000 feet above the Earth.

Is there a connection between Earth Day, Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday?

Whenever things on Earth get frightening, it helps to see the view from outer space. Photos from the Hubble telescope offer that perspective. Mother Earth appears as a beautiful sphere painted in blue, green and white. From 353 miles above, continents and oceans are visible, but there is no sign of wars, division or trouble. Earth appears unified, whole and peaceful.

That is the way God envisioned it from the beginning, fashioning a beautiful garden where human beings and all creation could live in harmony. But that harmony was disrupted quickly. Fear, greed, pride, mistrust and hunger for power and control divided people, families and ethnic, racial and religious groups from each other and from creation. Nations drew boundaries to consolidate power; wars ensued to protect and expand boundaries. The one human family God created broke apart into factions.

Walls, barriers and fences now are commonplace. People try to protect themselves from invasion, from foreigners, from refugees, from those who are different. Even the city of Jerusalem is divided by walls into four quarters, so each major religious group can control a piece of that holy land.

Walls come in many forms. We all build them -- mostly from fear.

In our country, invisible walls segregate the poor in dilapidated sections of cities or rural areas. Inferior housing, education and lack of employment make it difficult to escape. People of color confront walls of discrimination and prejudice. Walls separate red and blue states, conservatives and liberals. Walls divide religions. People of all faith traditions have forgotten the universal law of love that is the foundation of every major religion.

Each of us may have built walls that block out other people. Walls can keep us from forgiving someone who hurt us or loving someone we think is unworthy of love. We can even build walls to insulate us from God's love, fearing we are unworthy of divine mercy.

In his poem, "Mending Fences," Robert Frost reflects: "Before I built a wall I'd ask to know/What I was walling in or walling out,/ And to whom I was like to give offense./ Something there is that doesn't love a wall, /That wants it down."

In a recent Gospel passage (Jn 20:19-31), Jesus speaks directly to us, to our hurting planet and our fears. The disciples are in lockdown mode, paralyzed by fear. Jesus breaks through their locked doors with the words, "Peace be with you."

He who broke the ultimate wall of death breaks through their walls to fill them with joy. He is alive. No wall can contain Him. No wall can contain us. No wall should contain anyone!

Jesus spent His life breaking down walls: walls that separated the poor, scapegoated sinners as unworthy of God's love or divided Jews from Gentiles. Jesus tore down barriers so God's love could reach every person and restore unity on our planet.

Jesus' work is unfinished. As His disciples, we are called to break down walls and build bridges: to imagine a world like the one Ira saw from the plane, where no one is forgotten or left out -- a world the way it looks from the Hubble telescope.

John Lennon did that in his song, "Imagine:" "Imagine no possessions/I wonder if you can/No need for greed or hunger/A brotherhood of man/ Imagine all the people sharing all the world.../ You may say I'm a dreamer/But I'm not the only one/I hope someday you'll join us/And the world will be as one."

God imagines a world without walls, where everyone lives in harmony with creation, Mother Earth is treated with respect and the dignity of all creatures is cherished.

Jesus challenges us not just to imagine such a world, but to do our part to make it possible. It starts with peace within ourselves and with others, and blossoms in every act of peace, mercy and love we offer to restore the unity of human family and all creation.

The connection between Earth Day, Divine Mercy Sunday and Easter is you and me building bridges of mercy and peace on our fragile planet that is so broken, divided and walled in. Salaam, shalom, paz, amani, peace: It's more powerful than any wall and will never crumble!

(Deacon Solomon preached this homily at St. Peter's parish in Saratoga Springs.)

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