Saturday, April 20, 2013

Retribution

an oasis of palm trees in the middle of the desert floor

There is a trail just outside my retreat house. Winding it's way throughout the desert wilderness, the trail   leads to a  beautiful and refreshing oasis of palm trees. By the time I get to the oasis, I'm usually ready for a rest - weary from the long walk in the desert heat. The trees in the oasis offer a surprising amount of shade. It's a place where I can look out over the vast landscape, sit, rest and reflect - trying to get to an inner place of deeper wisdom.

I write a daily meditation on this blog hoping that it also may be an oasis for those who stop here and visit. I write these posts that they may be a place of refreshment in the wilderness of life.  I offer these daily meditations hoping they will be a source of deeper wisdom.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the events that have gripped this country over the past few days with the Boston bombings and the subsequent capture of one of the perpetrators of the horrible violence.

I was particularly struck with the almost-immediate "gut reaction" coming from so many people upon hearing the news that the young man who planted the bomb had been apprehended. The visceral calls for retribution were as stunning to me as the violence of the tragedy itself. People have been hurt and now people want revenge. Now it's time for payback.

And, of course, the spirit of vengeance hasn't been confined to the desire for retribution for that young man alone. Some people now call into question whether or not we have been too liberal with immigrants, challenging the wisdom of welcoming foreigners into our land - especially Muslims. Once the seeds of vengeance are planted, they quickly grow into a tree yielding poison fruit.

Obviously we all want to be safe in the pubic marketplace,  and of course those who harm us need to be accountable, but I think that "vengeance" as a response to injury always leads to deeper injury. 
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We are created to be in relationship with one another, and vengeance and retribution makes us more alienated from our very nature as human beings. Vengeance and retribution are attributes of our baser self,  not characteristics of our better angels.

In the Gospel of Luke Jesus teaches, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." My guess is that this is probably not a popular sentiment among many people on this day as they cry out for retribution. But while it  may not be popular, this teaching is filled with a deeper wisdom.

When we allow the spirit of retribution to infect us - our world, our nation, our own personal lives - we are eaten away and our spirits consumed.  When we allow the spirit of vengeance to have sway in our lives, we become less than human.

So let us bless those who have cursed us and pray for those who have abused us.







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