Spiritual Nonviolence, Part 9

Spiritual Nonviolence, Part 9

Active nonviolence calls us to be capable of celebration, of joy, when the presence of God has been accepted, and when it has not been to help discover and recognize this fact.”[1] 

Here are the ten tenants of A Spirituality of Nonviolence,[2] based on The Decalogue for a Spirituality of Nonviolence.1

  1. I recognize the sacred in all people.
  2. I accept myself deeply.
  3. I recognize that what I resent in another also lives in me.
  4. I renounce the ‘us-them’ mentality.
  5. I face my fear with love.
  6. I accept that New Creation is a community act, not a solo act.
  7. I am part of the whole creation, not master over.
  8. I am ready to suffer to help liberate the Divine in others.
  9. I will celebrate when the presence of God is accepted.
  10. I will slow down and plant seeds.

The ninth statement from A Spirituality of Nonviolence2 is I will celebrate when the presence of God is accepted. In the same way that suffering is an inseparable part of life we learn to accept and embrace, so is celebration. Sometimes we feel that celebrating is inappropriate when there is so much suffering in the world. Celebration, however, does not mean everything is perfect in our world any more than the presence of suffering means that everything is horrible. As we read the stories of Jesus we realize he attended and/or shared parables of banquets, parties, and other celebrations, often using them as metaphors for the kingdom of heaven. Indeed, dining and being in fellowship with others is not only fun, it can also be healthy and holy. Celebration does not mean everything is as it should or could be, only that the present state of things is good here and now. The present moment is worth celebrating even when much work remains to be done. Indeed, celebrations can rejuvenate us in ways that energize the work we have yet to do.

Jesus shares many parables about the return of something once lost and the ensuing celebration. In Luke 15:1-7 he tells of a person with 100 sheep who loses one of them and leaves the other 99 to find it. When he finds it he rejoices and celebrates with friends. Jesus says, “…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.” In the next verses (Luke 15:8-10), Jesus tells of a woman who lost one of her ten silver coins and drops everything to search for it. When she finds it she calls together friends and neighbors to rejoice. Jesus says, “…there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” The next verses (Luke 15:11-32) tell the story of the prodigal son who leaves his father while demanding the share of his father’s property he would have inherited upon his father’s death. The son squanders the inheritance and returns to the father, begging to be treated only as a hired hand. The father rejoices in the return of his son and makes preparations for an enormous celebration. In each of these parables, life was good in the moment and worthy of celebration. No grudges, no weeping over what was lost, just a joyful celebration for what has been restored.

This week’s statement about spiritual nonviolence encourages us to celebrate “when the presence of God is accepted.” For many of us, the conscious awareness of God’s presence in our lives has been lost. Those who do not consciously accept God’s presence often find themselves unmoored, insecure, and fraught with anxiety, even though God’s presence is there whether they accept it or not. Conscious acceptance and acknowledgement of the divine presence makes a difference and is cause for celebration wherever it occurs. That acceptance does not mean we’re gaining something we never had, but that we are reawakening to a beautiful something we’ve always had but was forgotten or ignored. It is truly life-changing.

Having someone rediscover the presence of God within them is good news. It makes them feel and behave in a more compassionate and less violent manner. It is good for them, yes, but it is also good for the rest of us. As more of us accept that divine presence is a foundational reality of our lives, our world becomes a more loving, more pleasant, and less violent place for everyone. And that is cause for celebration.

This is the 35th in a series of Life Notes titled Guns, Mental Illness, and Jesus. The opinions expressed here are mine and not necessarily those of other individuals or organizations. To engage with me or to explore contemplative spiritual direction, contact me at ghildenbrand@sunflower.com.

[1] Rosemary Lynch and Alain Richard, “The Decalogue for a Spirituality of Nonviolence,” in From Violence to Wholeness, Ken Butigan with Patricia Bruno, Franciscan Nonviolence Center, 1999, p. 18.

[2] www.cac.org, A Spirituality of Nonviolence, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rE7pqKJ_aRo

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