Over the last few months I have had the opportunity to spend time catching up with many people I have known through the many stages of my life. There are two primary reasons for this. The first is having the freedom of a car and therefore being able to travel around easily, the second is social networking. I have been able to reacquaint and reconnect with old friends. Some are living happy and enjoyable lives and others it would appear are not. Whatever the individual circumstances I have loved reconnecting with old friends and family.
Memory is a funny thing. It is amazing what we remember and what we cannot remember, how memory can be so very selective. Memory also changes over time. My memory or do I mean my perspective on past events in my life, have changed over time.
“The dictionary reminds us that ‘remember’ literally means to ‘re-member’; to put back together that which has been torn apart. In some way remembering has a similarity to ‘religion’, which means ‘to rebind together’.
Both are about seeking after a wholeness, and isn’t that what we are about most of the time?”
Maybe that’s what I’ve been doing myself these last few months, seeking after wholeness. Maybe I’ve been trying to come full circle with my past. I have of course come personally to peace with much of my life; I have worked hard at this. That said I have noticed, during recent times, that this has moved to a different level. If I am really honest, up to now, it has been primarily all about me wanting to come to peace with my own life. I am not wholly convinced that it has primarily been about building relationships, although this has been a positive consequence of my actions. That said I have still kept a safe distance at times, I have not wanted to get too involved in the lives of the very people who have shaped me. Therefore I have to conclude that my motives have, to some extent, remained a little selfish. I have enjoyed playing the prodigal son who floats in and out of people’s lives, I wonder if I have been truly present. I have learnt so much these last few months about the importance of family and community. Or maybe I’ve just remembered something that I had previously forgotten.
One of my favourite parables, told by Jesus, is that of the “Prodigal Son” (Luke 15 vv 11-32). I believe that it still has so much to say to us in the 21st century. It’s such a human tale. The story speaks powerfully about healing the broken bonds of family and community. It’s about reconciliation; it’s about wholeness. It teaches just how vital human reconnection is; this applies as much today as it did back then. In so doing it also teaches me something of the nature of God. That God loves and accepts us, no matter who we are or where we have been. God does not choose and reject, although I accept that many portray God in this way. The punishing and judgemental God does appear in both Christian and Jewish scripture, but I believe that there is also a much more powerful Biblical witness that shines through the very same scripture. This is the God that seeks connection and reconciliation and is truly experienced when we make peace with one another and all that is life.
This is the God I know, the one I have experienced when at peace with myself, my past and the people I share my life with. Many would not want to use the word God to describe this experience and I believe that Love in its truest sense fits just as well. But for myself I prefer to name that incredible and beautiful mystery God.
No matter where we have been we can all begin to create the commonwealth of Love again, by simply reconciling ourselves with life itself. In some sense we are all prodigal sons and daughters. To me this is the whole point of religious community; to build a space where compassion toward one another is practised. From this starting point we can begin to build circles of compassion going out into our world, where violence and hatred does seem to be on the increase. Many of the great sages taught this, the Buddha did as did Confucius. Confucius saw each person at the centre of a constantly expanding series of concentric circles of compassion. Thus by taking care of family this compassion then moved out to community, and beyond until it reached the whole world.
Once again I have begun to remember that every moment of reconciliation is a true act of religion.