Psalm 112 :4
Light shines in the darkness for the upright;
the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.
Today is the feast of Elizabeth of Hungary and the psalm includes this verse. It sticks out to me because it reminds me of my favorite hymn in scripture – the Prologue of Johns Gospel – those first verses about light and darkness.
The story of this saint is hard to figure out since the hagiography of the church and the facts from the secular history books are so different in their telling of the story. This happens a lot. There was a time when I would only believe what the church said. Now, I just shrug my shoulders and ask myself about my own life. Where do I serve the poor? Where do I make sacrifices for Jesus’ mission on earth? Where are my keys? (I keep losing them.)
I have no idea if am upright, though I tend to be uptight a lot. I do know that I have compassion. Not enough for myself perhaps, but I do have it for others and that is a small victory for Jesus on my better days. The more I can muster for myself the more I have for those around me. That is the work of my fifth decade on this planet. It is a job for which the note book and pencil case have only recently been bought for the class. There is at least optimism.
To be merciful and full of compassion requires a lightness of being towards which I strive in life and which seems not to come easily. My clergy colleagues, whose kind and firm formation of me is heaven-sent, model the kind of compassion and kindness I want to one day achieve. Kai does too. As does the Bishop of our diocese.
It is weird loving and following a God who is at once both shy and a show-off. And I see those traits in me and in most of humanity from time to time. Like Elizabeth, we all sometimes just want to hide in a monastery until we meet the other monks and begin to wonder what brought us all here. And yet that silence and that solitude are valuable incubators for the kind of prayer which inspires the kind of compassion to which we are all called in life, and which makes this mess all worth while. Most days.
Does God dance? Is God playful? Is God beautiful and graceful? Well, we are made in God’s image and so, based on what I have seen in humans, I believe so. And that gives me hope on days like today when I awake afraid of life and wonder if this is all going to turn out OK – this life I mean. And this dinner.
My new friend Erika is an icon to God for me. I have no idea what she thinks of God or even if she believes in God. But I know she dances and I know she writes poetry because she wrote me a poem the days after our first meeting and she loves life and, like Woopi Goldberg, Mr. Rogers and Kai; she serves to remind me that light shines in darkness and there is enough compassion in the world to lend me the courage to live this day with as much dance, playfulness, beauty and grace as I can muster.
And when I can’t muster it, others will lend me the muster – which may be righteousness in its raw form.