We do live in a troubled world and sometimes its brokenness is overwhelming. It’s not easy to understand. Someone who has helped me reflect on the state of the world and come to some understanding of it is Beatrice Bruteau, particularly her book ‘The Holy Thursday Revolution’. Bruteau suggests that the world view which affects where we’re at is domination. There are those who wish to dominate and those who are afraid they will be dominated. It’s this that gives rise to war and conflict, inequalities, pollution, consumerism, individualism and other ills that are so evident. Religion too has been implicated in this. Most religions have grown up defining themselves over and against others. Christianity and Judaism grew apart by consolidating what made the two movements different from one another. Hinduism only defined itself after the invasion of Muslims when it needed a name to differentiate itself from Islam. Before that there was no name for the religious paths of India. Religious systems too were inclined to separate followers into orthodox and heretics, even feeling free to kill those considered heretical. Many religions felt free to impose their truth on others and demand obedience from their followers.
So no wonder people are asking where God is in all of this. Christianity is very clear about the answer – God is in the middle of it all and as Christians move towards Holy Week, when they remember the death of Jesus, they are aware of how God entered into the suffering of the world. This is the meaning of incarnation. I was once at an event when the audience was asked about the sacred language of Christianity. Some said love, compassion, Greek, but the answer given was flesh because it says in the Gospel of John that the Word was made Flesh. For Christians the best example of God enfleshed in a human person is Jesus but Christian belief is that there is no separation between the sacred and the secular. All nature is graced and God is to be found in ordinary everyday life – in its difficulties as well as its successes. God is not absent from the problems of our world. Jesus shows that God is part of the suffering but the Resurrection also shows that life can come out of death and that no situation is so desperate that it cannot be transformed. Christians should be people of hope in spite sometimes of the evidence to the contrary and perhaps this is the gift it has to offer the world today. Last week’s funeral of Martin McGuinness highlighted for many of us that what at one time seemed a doomed situation in Northern Ireland can be changed through a refusal to give up and a commitment to dialogue.
For Beatrice Bruteau the Holy Thursday Revolution is that Jesus overturned the relationship of domination to one of service and friendship. This, she says, is the new paradigm that will transform the world. It’s a new way of relating to one another that will do away with hierarchies and opposing identities. It might take generations to come about and it will only happen when we look upon the world with new eyes – eyes that take seriously the findings of modern science. At heart this is that we are all interrelated, not only with other human beings but with the whole of creation. If you think that our DNA goes back in an uninterrupted line to the beginning of life then we all come from the same source. As Bruteau would say we must love our neighbour as our self - because our neighbour is our self. If we took this seriously our mode of relating would be cooperation rather than domination.
Bruteau shows that a new mode of being is possible, that it’s already growing, that we can all contribute to it but it’s a slow process. I like the analogy which compares the history of the world to a year. According to this image human beings only arrive on the scene at about two minutes to midnight on the 31st December. This should teach us patience and give us confidence that in the end all will be well.