When I was in high school, I visited a mercy ship with my mother. The ship had docked at one of Ghana’s ports and among providing health, dental and eye care to the many people who had need, but they also had an unbelievable array of books for sale. As I walked through the aisle, I was blown away by the sheer number of books. As I walked, my eye chanced up on a book with the title “Enough is Enough.” It was one of the many books my mother bought from the ship that evening.
Unfortunately, I didn’t read the book and so I can’t share any story about what was inside. My satisfaction, really, has more to do with the title and, especially at this time, where eleven (11) of our Jewish neighbors would be gunned down by one man who could not tolerate the depth of his hatred. He had been burning deep within, not out of some desire to do good, but to destroy life. His victims had simply gathered to pray, to reach out to the God who created the world and each of us, and who still extends his bounteous grace and mercy upon us.
I have always had a problem with those who either believe they are more human than others or less human than others. Either way, it undermines and discredits the grandeur of God’s creation or, more insidiously, it perpetuates the false claim of any racial supremacy or the idea that some deserve to live while some do not. Our fellow parishioner Dione Mahoney sent me a quote by Rabbi Heschel as she reflected on the carnage in Pittsburgh - "Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy. We must make a persistent effort to be worthy of the name human."
By Rabbi Heschel’s standard, we can debase the worthiness of the name "human" to the point where we would not even be worthy to be called human. I believe that when we miss the point of being human, when we lose our touch with compassion, and when we fail to recognize the depth of our human interdependence, we fail to express in deed and in action the grandeur of God’s creation, the diversity of God’s creation, and the fulfilling blessing of being human.
There once was a Jesuit priest by the name Gerard Manley Hopkins. His poetry expressed the fullness and wonder of God’s creation. As we reflect on what it means to be human, I want to share one of his beautiful and enduring poems with you:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
This poem reminds me of what the Psalmist said in 139, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Who knew the psalms any of the victims may have been praying before they were shot? Is it possible that any one of the victims may have been reading Psalm 139 while a gunman was standing right across the street, seething with hatred? I think we miss the point entirely when we forget that we are beautifully and wonderfully made, and that to live is to praise, to praise is to be human, and within the context of praise is where we find affirmation and fulfillment even when we are at the lowest point in our lives.
We are at the lowest point. Dark clouds of anger, hatred, bigotry, anti-Semitism, racism and fear hang over us. We are at the point where enough is more than enough, and where we are crippled by our inability to change human hearts. But I pray you do not lose hope. I pray you do not lose fervor but as Paul said, to serve enthusiastically.
If you are able, I invite you to join us tonight for a Vigil at 7:30 p.m. in Old Brick. Let’s give ourselves one more opportunity to celebrate God’s majesty in creation - in creating all those we mourn, and you and me, one as human, one in diversity, and one in love.