Of Shame and Love
by Annie Callahan

I want to share a description from Oscar Wilde’s play, “Salome” that helps me
with the concept of Easter:

They are discussing The Messiah, about mid-play, which is just one act.

Herod: Where is this man at present?

Second Nazarene: He is in every place, my lord, but it is hard to
find him.

This description helps me remember the “Illusion of Separation”, and that we
are all divine, there is a Christ in each of us, but it is “hard to find him”.

There’s a book about near death experience, “Return from Tomorrow” by physician
George Ritchie, a native Texan, with a Christian background. In his near death
experience during Army basic training, he sees the loving face of “Jesus”.
Later, as a soldier, liberating a concentration camp, he dealt with the horror
by looking for someone with “that” face.

He finds that face in a prisoner he calls “Wild Bill”, who was a peacemaker in
the camp. Bill would mediate disputes between various enthicities of survivors,
and even camp guards. Ritchie assumed that Bill was a recent prisoner, due to
his positive attitude, upright posture, and peaceful demeanor, but actually Bill
had been there longer than almost any prisoner.

Bill explained that when his family was lined up by the Germans, they discovered
that Bill could speak several languages, and so was useful to them. So Bill
watched as his wife and children were shot to death. He said he knew he could
choose to be loving or hateful, and that as a lawyer, he knew the consequences
of being hateful, and decided in that moment to love every person he
encountered.

I’m reminded of an assignment I had in “Sunday School” (or the Catholic
equivalent thereof). I attended parochial school for half of 6th grade, and all
of 7th and 8th grades, where every subject was immersed in the Bible. After
parochial school, those of us who transitioned to public school in 9th grade
went to an evening religious education class.

In the religious education class, we had an assignment to write a description of
Jesus. I wrote in superlatives, with such things as “the welcomingest smile” and
“the warmest eyes” as examples. The teacher commented on my lack of academic
skills, such as my making up words. She, however, was impressed by my
description.

Those of us in the relgious education class who had been in parochial school,
would barrage the teacher with our challenges, doubts and evidence of hypocrisy.
In response to our onslaught, the religious education teacher quit.

We somehow learned that the teacher volunteered to teach the class as a part of
her healing over the recent death of her baby. Our remorse was profound. We
visited her at her house and apologized. As well as accepting our apology, she
again complimented me on my descriptive essay. After that, I never returned to
the religious education class, nor to church, until St. Andrew’s.

I believe Ritchie’s “Wild Bill”, and my 14-year-older’s description of Jesus exemplifies
our essence, which is love. However, our reptilian brain has programmed us to
live in “fight or flight” mode, which overshadows our loving essence.

Jesus’ presence affected others (mirror neuron?), and others’ faces/presences
reflected his pure love after he was crucified, and these persons were
observed/experienced in the world.

There was a study in which cynical MBA students were shown a photo of Mother
Theresa and their blood pressure would lower. Imagine being in Jesus’ presence.

I was deeply moved when working in the infant room at SafePlace’s day care. The
least trauma these babies were exposed to was living at a shelter, yet their
eyes held the divine, and it was mesmerizing. Their resilience was amazing.
They’d go quickly from rigid bodies and closed demeanor to supple and
emotionally responsive.

A long time ago, I listened to Zukav’s “Dancing Wu Li Masters”, and sensed the
illusion of separateness.

Last year at a retreat by the sea, during walking meditation, I experienced low
clouds, challenging my concept of where sky begins and ends. I then observed the
steam rising from my tea, and sensed how we humans all share the air we breathe,
and that the oxygen is the basic component of our cells/physical body. Of course
I was shortly thereafter blessed with the gift of observing the steam arising
from the teacher’s tea.

So, as Wilde says, “He is in everyplace,…but it is hard to find him”.

With the loving grace of the St Andrew’s community, finding “him” has
become easier for me.

Of late, I’ve struggled with what I hear as the amorphization of the divine.
Researching child neglect and abuse, I encountered a Native American site that
finished the phrase, “May the great spirit watch over you”, wording with which
I’m completely comfortable.

Since attending St Andrew’s, I’ve grown from hating (literally) Christians to
experiencing them as loving. I’m confident that my current challenge with
terminology will ease with time.

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