A Book of Sparks
Lion of Judah, Lamb of God
4) Religion and Violence. Here, I confess, I zoned out a bit as I am so cognizant of my own tendencies toward violence—to annihilate people who are in my way, of whom I'm jealous, who annoy me—that Old Testament violence hardly seems bloody enough.
As Fr. Barron emphasized, however, the Bible must be read in its entirety through the interpretive lens of Jesus Christ, who for all time established: We fight, yes, but as soldiers going as to war. Not with the puny earthly weapons of guns and bombs, but with the weapons of non-violence, charity, and love.
Finally, he made the point that the people who respond with such intense negativity to his YouTube lectures, most of them young, could not possibly be spending so much time studying and dissecting and objecting to his message if they, like us, were not groping for meaning and truth. Keep on writing, he said. Because if our voices are extinguished, the young people coming up behind will have no one to grapple with, no one to respond to them, no one with whom to work these questions out that we are all working out together and always will be.
Having received my own, thankfully-to-date small, share of hate mail, Fr. Barron's brilliant lecture and consoling words could scarcely have been more timely. They stayed with me all afternoon as I met with acquisition editors. "What do you write?" Unh . . . I guess you could call it everyday mysticism? My joy, my love, my struggles, food, birds, trees, the stars, my friends . . . "What are you looking for?" Books that sell . . .
Toward the end of the day, I was invited to participate in a Mass that another of the attending priests held in his hotel room. We were twelve or so, standing, or sitting on the bed, or propped up on the floor. Very simple. Very short. The reading was Matthew 5:20-26, which begins: "Jesus said to his disciples: 'I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.'"
The priest gave a very short homily. "The true follower of Christ," he said, "is never defined by his or her stance on an issue. The test is never 'I'm against abortion and therefore I'm a Christian.' It's never 'I'm for peace and therefore I'm a Christian.' The litmus test of a follower of Christ is whether you love your enemy and forgive the murderer."
Love your enemy and forgive the murderer.
Beyond all the books, all the rosaries, all the Masses, all the lectures: Love your enemy and forgive the murderer. So simple, yet so deeply, subversively radical; so simple, yet so infinitely, paradoxically complex; so simple, yet so seemingly impossible. The source of all the hunger, all the longing, all the desperate desire for connection that drives some of us to write, and that drives some to lash out at what we write.
This is what is ours to proclaim. This is the paradox we are called to live: the "lion of Judah," who turned out to be a wounded lamb.
Heather King is an ex-lawyer, ex-drunk Catholic convert with three memoirs: Parched (the dark years); Redeemed (crawling toward the light); and Shirt of Flame (forthcoming - her year of wandering around Koreatown, L.A. "with" St. Thérèse of Lisieux). You can find Heather on Facebook. She blogs at shirtofflame.blogspot.com.