There is always a social dimension to genuine spiritual practice or philosophical inquiry. It is the pursuit of human wholeness, liberation, justice, and peace that elevates an intellectual or faith concept to praxis or experiential commitment. The common good is the responsibility of each one of us. We are to so structure society that every person can fully develop in freedom and dignity. Every institution -- economic, political, religious, educational, and cultural -- must serve to liberate every person, and the "pursuit of the whole" (Plato) requires the mystical realization that we are all members of one another and so cannot justify leaving anyone behind.
Just say the Word
And every border
Will vanish this very night.
We could tomorrow all wake up
And not know if we're coming or going.
then we might finally understand:
We are all each one of us, aliens
Until our pilgrim hearts
Find their rest in Your embrace...
"La Illaha, Il Allahu"
We think we are many,
But we are really only one...
(Just say the Word...)
"To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that Love is the reason for my existence, for God is Love. Love is my true character. Love is my name." (Thomas Merton)
To love is to serve. To serve is to embrace the broken, to embrace the pain, to embrace the hidden wholeness of the human person, to embrace the New Creation struggling to life in what we call history, and finally, to embrace the naming of those moments when the Holy One breaks through and the dazzling Light is revealed. We can live in such a way that the ordinary moments of our days are consecrated to the Holy One, the Love that breathes all things into existence. We can live deeply the mystery of communion and solidarity... we can imagine paradise and practice beauty.
The trek of the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath is toward their place, their work, and their purpose: the "Promised Land" of their Home. This is the American vision of "justice for all". The challenge before us is to leave no one behind or out on the margins.
Justice is to somehow mirror the "politics" of Rose of Sharon in The Grapes of Wrath: to save, to serve, and to liberate into their possibilities everyone in the community of our place in the world. "Come, my friends, it is not yet too late to seek a newer world." (Robert Kennedy) You must unleash the activist in you! Now is the time for commitment and transformation! You just might be the one for whom history will bend toward the good and the beautiful!
Do not be fooled: the mystic path is powerfully political. Each one of us lives and dies as a human being, fully incarnated. If we are not politically active, our meditation -- like our breathing -- is worthless. If we are not every day committed to continuing the revolution of peace and justice then we are wasting our lives. Our love -- like our breathing -- is only of value to the degree that we give it away, challenge ourselves to set no boundaries upon our hearts, and create social policies that are transparently just, giving priority to the most powerless among us.
The mystic path invites us to envision a Way and a time in which there will be no more killing, no more starvation, no more injustice -- a time in which everyone is invited and enabled to join at Table and the Happy Feast of Love. We must give every child the gift of hope for her/his full development and liberation. No more excuses!
Robert Daniel Smith was privileged to serve the homeless and marginalized for 30 years in California. He is living now almost within shouting distance of the Twin Cities. He is an interfaith minister, a poet, artist, writer, and long-time Franciscan Worker / Companion of the Way currently dreaming Iona House...