Thursday, April 17, 2008

on earth as it is in heaven

It is not unusual, at least in the hustle bustle of this town, to go for what seems like days without someone extending some extra kindness. Seemingly no one is holding doors open for anyone else, no one is offering to help commuters struggling with packages and strollers on subway stairs, no one is helping old ladies cross busy streets nor does anyone seem conscious of how their lack of sidewalk etiquette effects others. To say nothing of how callously the hungry and homeless are passed on the street. Unpleasant distractions to be side stepped and avoided at most. All things I've been guilty of to be sure.

Amidst all this, dare I say, "non-Christian" behavior the media and the country are aflutter with the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI. This morning the Pope led Mass at Nationals Park before forty six thousand people. Tomorrow hundreds of thousands of spectators are expected to see this one man travel down Fifth Avenue. The local news is warning to stay away from the area if you don't need to be there as traffic and crowd control will be mayhem.

So many people are desperate for a glimpse of what Holiness looks like yet so few of us are willing to extend to those around us even the smallest of niceties.

At the core of all the major world religions is, I believe, the basic principle which we have come to know as the golden rule: "Do not do to others what you wouldn't want them to do to you".

This seems simple enough and though I believe this to be true with everything that is in me I still find myself treating others poorly. Not so much by intent as by indifference.

Can I actually run through life as though I don't have time to be considerate? Throughout the teachings of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddha is the common thread of compassion. These traditions urge us to have a sympathetic consciousness of others' distress and a desire to ease it. Can I continue, in good conscience, to go forward with the belief that my own personal gain is more important than having compassion for someone else?

My religion, my faith and what I believe don't matter. What matters are my actions.

I am responsible for my own life experience. If I want to experience kindness I need to be more kind. If I want to experience love I need to be more loving. It couldn't be more simple. If I take the action to do the next right thing then I am that much closer to bringing an experience of Holiness to my own life. I don't want heaven when I'm dead I want heaven right now! I suppose this means I need to behave in a heavenly fashion. Can I do this? I can try. Will I fail? Absolutely. But, I find, the more I am willing to deflate my ego and do for others the happier I am. This dichotomy is astounding.

I am reminded of the St. Francis prayer that says:
it is by self forgetting that we are found;
it is in giving that we receive

How is it possible to achieve success living by these principles?

I once heard someone define success as the number of people who smile when they hear your name.

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