Thursday, December 18, 2014

Building Bridges

"Olive Branches"
- in my meditation garden -

For more than half a century a thick wall of separation had divided the United States and Cuba.  Growing up as a child I remember being taught that Cuba was one of our worst and most dangerous enemies, and I vividly remember that very frightening time when we were on the verge of a nuclear holocaust because missiles in Cuba were pointing at the United States. 

Yesterday one of those "history making" moments happened as that dividing wall came tumbling down and the President announced a normalization of relationships between our two countries - long time, bitter enemies are now poised to become allies and maybe even friends. 

This morning's New York Times reported on the important role Pope Francis played in helping to restore Cuban American relationships, suggesting that this particular pope is  more and more being recognized on the world stage as someone who is capable of "building bridges" between the nations. 

Interestingly enough, one of the Pope's formal titles is "pontiff," which comes from the Latin word "pontifex," meaning "bridge builder." At least in theory, as the title suggests, this is what popes are supposed to do - they are supposed to be bridge-builders.  It seems that perhaps Pope Francis may have actually put this theory into practice.

I've been reflecting on this bridge-builder pope who uses the name "pontifex" as his twitter handle. Just the other day he sent out this tweet:

Where there is a wall, there is a closure of the heart.
We need bridges not walls.

But, of course, the Pope alone is not the only bridge builder. It seems to me that any one of us on any sort of spiritual journey is, in fact, a "pontiff."  

A spiritual path is a path of enlightenment. On this path we tear down the walls of ego isolating us from one another as we become aware of our dynamic interconnection.  But tearing down walls is only the first step. After the walls come down, we are then called to build bridges - to nurture, heal and reconcile relationships, to show kindness to others, to work for justice and peace, to care for the needs of the poor and feed the hungry.

The Buddha taught:

However many holy words you read
However many you speak
What good will they do if you do not act upon them?

It seems to me that this "bridge builder" pope is an inspiration for all of us "pontiffs" who walk a spiritual journey on a path to deeper truth. As pontiffs, we are all called to get up and go outside of our churches and our temples, get up off our meditation mats, get up and go out to the streets of our everyday life and do our very best to "act upon our holy words and holy thoughts and holy ideas,"  each us doing our part to make this world a better place.

Yesterday walls came tumbling down, prisoners were set free, bridges were built, and enemies face the prospect of reconciliation - the message of Christmas became so very real, it took on flesh. 

Peace on earth, goodwill to all people!

1 comment:

  1. I vividly remember those days too as well as the ones prior to those days. I recall Castro being given a ticker tape in NYC and him camping in Central Park. Don't try that today.

    I remember how the policy of embargo caused a shortage of sugar and an increase in the price of sugar. Local farmers were encouraged by the Feds to grow sugar beets. Many did, they went bust as did the refinery they built in Montezuma NY. near where I lived. I remember JFK ordering thousands of Cuban cigars before the embargo. Is that like insider trading? The embargo was like the act of a jilted suitor it hurt everyone.

    This pope is a marvel and a sensible man.