Faith, Hope and the Phoenix Rising
Happy Easter to all those who celebrate this day.
While I may not practice Catholicism anymore, I still believe in many of the lessons of Easter; you don't have to be Catholic or Christian to recognize the values of faith and hope.
The followers of Jesus counted on one thing as they watched their saviour go through the stations of the cross: that they would not be let down by the God who they placed their faith in. Jesus would go through pain, he would suffer and he would die; that much was certain. But they knew that Jesus's father would not let him die in vain. Something good would come of this, because that is what their faith told them. They had hope that, through the death of Jesus, others would live. It would take great suffering and pain and sacrifice, but man would be rewarded in the end.
It is a tough thing to have faith when all around you is despair. I've always believed that true, pure faith was an absolute virtue. I am in awe of those whose convictions are so deep that they never question the ending of the story they are living. Good will prevail. Evil will not. God will see to that, they think.
Whether or not you believe in God, most humans want to believe that good will indeed prevail. Whether we are sitting on a jury in a courtroom or reading a suspense novel or huddling in your house with your family while war wages around you, there is always that shimmer of hope.. This too will end, we think. We will get through this. The good guys will win, evil will be defeated and our full faith in God, in the system, in the world - will be rewarded.
I do have faith in humanity. I have to, because to lose faith in humanity would be to lose faith in the world and in life. I know in my heart that the good outweigh the bad, that those fighting for justice outweigh those whose idea of justice is a swift sword against the neck of those who oppose them. We give people chances, we try to understand their ways, we try to work things out to obtain a balance between their idea of good our and ours. Sometimes, the balance tips in the favor of the bad guys, and when we look at the scales to find out why, we see that our enemies are no longer alone; others have joined them. So we must fight not only our original foes, but the friends of those foes. It gets hard to keep your faith when the enemy becomes a gathering storm bearing down on you. But we must. We must never lose our faith, never lose our hope.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rab-bo'ni!" (which means Teacher).
Jesus said to her, "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."Mary Mag'dalene went and said to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her. John 20:1-18.
The faith that one must have in order to believe this with all their heart is admirable. We all really do want to believe in something like this; that from all the pain and suffering and death, something good will rise. We watch the ashes and wait for the Phoenix to emerge because we know it must. Without that faith and hope, humanity is nothing. We may as well turn ourselves over to our enemies, to the devil himself, if we do not believe that good prevails and from ashes come new life.
There are people who want you to resist the hope you may have. They will take your faith, wrap it in their hate and throw it back at you. They will twist your beliefs until everything you think you know is just one big knot. And they will try to make you a friend of your enemy.
These are the people who side with evil. They march up and down the streets proclaiming their solidarity with those who wish you harm. They say - but there are two sides to every story! But to them I say, only one side is motivated by goodness. The other is motivated by hate.
We want peace, we want a world that is full of faith and hope. We don't want our children to someday have to stare at the ashes of what was, waiting for something to rise from it. I just do not believe that my country means harm. To believe that would be to have lost my faith and while I may not have that unquestioning belief in a divine power, I do have that same kind of belief in humanity, in goodness and in all the people who want the world to be a decent, humane place.
My faith in humans runs very deep, but it is constantly being tested by those who use religion as a sword and those who justify the targeted, intentional deaths of innocents.
It is being tested by those will take every word, written or spoken, that opposes their view and disort those words until they can be jammed into the giant jigsaw puzzle they have created. And look at that puzzle now, now that it's practically complete. The jagged egdes, missing pieces and obviously wrong placement of others are of no mind to them. They will tell you it is supposed to look like that. I look at those people in despair; their hatred and animosity, misplaced as they may be, worry me.
They have faith and hope in the wrong things. They have faith that we will lose. They hope for for our failure. I pity those who so smugly carry around sounds supporting the enemy. Perhaps they can't be blamed; maybe they don't know who the enemy is. They are just confused. And perhaps someday they will learn the hard way just who they have supported, they they placed all their faith in the people who will just turn on them in the end, anyhow.
And maybe these people think that the insurgents will be grateful and perhaps save them some day when all the joined forces of insurgents, militants and the like come for us. But, no. Sadly, they will be turned towards death with us, their posturing and protesting and solidarity all for naught.
I have the utmost faith and hope that out of the ashes of the former Iraq will rise a new one; one with peace, hope and prosperity among its chief resources. I have faith that those who oppose this peace will be shut down and those who embrace it will be heard. I have faith that the right things will happen and that evil will be turned away at the gate, forced to go somewhere else, to move on like nomads in the night. And all that evil will eventually be forced out of every country and made to gather in one small space where it will be served with justice.
It's interesting to look at the differences in what each religion believes. For the would be martyrs, they believe when they die they will be greeted by a God who views their murdering ways as a triumph, and they will be rewarded for all the evil they spread throughout the world.
For others, they will be greeted by a God that forgives them for their sins while also forgiving the enemy for their sins as well.
And for others who don't believe in God, they will die with the knowledge of what they have done.
Either way you look at it, they all leave some kind of legacy. For those on the side of wanton murder, oppresion and tyranny, the legacy is one of fear and sadness. For those on the side of freedom, peace and hope, the legacy is one that will last forever; they leave some of themselves with the ashes and when we finally do see something rise up, they will be a part of it. There is a reason that most religions believe that good rises and evil travels downward to hell.
Whenever I tell people that I don't believe in one higher, diving being, they claim that I am faithless, that I don't believe in anything. Not so.
I believe in the human spirit. I have faith in the inherent goodness of people, that even though there are some people who just lack that ability to see beyond their own needs, the selfless, hopeful people of the world will always outweigh their opposites. I believe that everyone deserves the freedoms I have. I beleive that those who are free owe to those who are not to help them obtain the same freedoms. Not give them those freedoms, but help get them on the road to being free. I don't believe in turning loaves into fish if the people receiving the fish are not willing to learn how to perform the same task; but I do believe that sharing the fish in the first place will make them want to learn.
Perhaps one day we will all eat the same fish and drink the same wine and do it at the same table. Sure, we will all eat from different dishes and drink from different glasses, but we will all be able to agree that the meal is delicious.
My mother often looks at my lack of religion and asks herself where she went wrong. But she didn't go wrong at all. While iI may have strayed from her church and some of its teachings, there is a lesson my mother taught me that I never forgot. Interestingly enough, it is a lesson from Greek mythology.
When I was growing up, my mother was fascinated with mythology. She had this two volume book-of mythological figures and stories. one volume (the red one) was an encyclopedia, the other (blue) was filled with the myths based on the figures. I would often sneak the books out of my mom's room at night, take them to my room and read until I could not keep my eyes open. It was the story of the Phoenix that caught my attention time and time again. The concept of rebuilding, of rising from ashes was one that I would come to again and again in my life, the most significant time being on September 11, 2001. And now, watching the events unfold in Iraq and specifically in Fallujah, I think of the Phoenix again.
The willing bird; to burn is his desire.
That he may live again; he's proud in death,
And goes in haste to gain a better breath.
The spice heap fired with celestial rays
Doth burn the aged Phoenix, when straight stays
The Chariot of the amazed Moon; the pole
Resists the wheeling, swift Orbs, and the whole
Fabric of Nature at a stand remains.
Till the old bird anew, young begins again.
Early Christians used the symbol of the Phoenix to represent of immortality and resurrection.
On this Easter Sunday, I can't help but compare Jesus, the Phoenix and Iraq.
It only appears to be death. It only appears to be the end. From this, all things rise.
Today, besides being Easter Sunday, is also the third anniversary of the day my former brother in law died of massive heart failure at age 31. My children were upset that the anniversary, so solemn for them, lands on Easter this year, which is supposed to be a joyous day.
I look at my son and I see his uncle's sense of humor, his love of music, his great skills at third base. I look at my daughter and see her uncle's eyes, his thoughtfulness, his willingness to believe that everything in the world is good.
They both have the same laugh as their uncle. They both have that same crooked smile.
I tell them, out of ashes comes life. Out of your uncle, comes parts of you. Everything rises. Everything is reborn, renewed somehow. That is faith.