We cannot begin to address systems of injustice and oppression without first turning inward. We have to realize that these same problems and attitudes we see outside ourselves are also within each of us. Most problems, from the small issues to broad ones, stem from unhealthy coping strategies and protective mechanisms that we use to protect ourselves from further hurt at the expense of others.
This is why Jesus’ teaching was so powerful. He wasn’t interested in outward sin management. Honestly, Jesus was tracking on what God had been about all along, not a list of approved actions, but transformed hearts. He directed people to turn inward and examine themselves. Jesus observes that it is that which comes from within that defines us. The capacity for goodness lies within all of us, and the capacity for destruction also lies there. It is only when we can identify this and work at understanding it that we will heal the violence and hatred of our world on both the individual and global scale. It is only by looking within that we can find change.
Are you burdened by the injustice of the world? Do you long for a world made new? Then turn within my friend. Explore the depths of your own soul. Do the healing work. It is only then that you can turn outwardly with hands that can bridge the gap and a heart that can participate in the work heading towards reconciliation of all things. For it is only the heart that can recognize its own inherent value yet deep struggle to move toward what is good, that can then offer something to this world that even begins to look like healing.
Search the depths of your own soul. Confront your own humanity. Meet God there in that place. What a wondrous thing it is to realize that even in our beautiful and profoundly broken space, the places we don’t allow anyone to know or see because of how shameful they are—this is exactly where God embraces us. All of us. God took on our humanity. God identified with us. This is the great mystery. God is with us. Not just in some abstract way, but in flesh and blood. Partnered in our experience, partaker of our sufferings. What divine love and compassionate solidarity that reveals.
Allow that love to see the reality of who you are. There is nothing that surprises God there. Nothing that God’s love cannot address, consume, and transform. Then, and only then my friend, can you look outward with a heart that is overflowing with love for you have realized that you are yourself indeed loved also. Now your eyes can see a future full of hope and you will have hands that are eager to serve; ready to invite others also into this place of healing.
When I enter into the plight of humanity and then recognize that same humanity in me, then I can see God in me also, patiently working with me to bring about all that is good. I must live into that reality and no other. I am no better or worse than another. I am loved, and so is everyone else. And it is only then that I can reach out and love my neighbor, offering them the same gift. When you realize that what we all share in common is greater than the things we think differently on and divide us, we can actually then move towards healing.
This inward journey of which I speak is the work of contemplation. It is the work of prayer. It is the work done in quiet reflection. It is sitting in moments of silence, stopping to marvel at nature, connecting with your physical body through slow movement. It is meditating on the great mysteries and aligning oneself with the energy of divine, eternal love.
May you have the courage to take the journey, and the faithfulness to see the journey through. On the journey, may you have the wisdom to take the lessons you are learning and put them into practice as a peacemaker in the world—this is the hard work, and this is the work of a lifetime.