Thursday, December 14, 2006

Third Sunday of Advent - C3

Year C
Philippians 4:4-7

Gentleness is a quality I've worked toward for a long time. Many years ago I had an email signature before there was email. It goes like this.

take care
dream strong
smile gentle
and so go well

Now it is framed and hangs by the door in a graphic art form - a gift from a friend. I do sometimes wonder whether it ought to be said again and again. At other times it is clear that it isn't to be spoken again until it has been realized.

From various translations we hear interpretations of gentleness that may parallel this signature:

moderation (KJV)
be on their side (Message)
forbearance (YLT)
reasonableness (ESV)

Gentleness is here seen as an antidote to fear or worry. It is paralleled with prayer as a process of transformation and renewal. Where worry and fear tend to freeze us into repetition of behavior or erratic response flailing around for some escape, gentleness offers an active and intentional way toward a mystery of peace through a gift of being able to fruitfully wait and to see ourselves and the world around us in a larger context allowing us time and space to moderate our fear by being on the side of that which scares us at least enough to forbear our knee-jerk violent responses and find a reasonable path forward.

No Fear is not just a macho response to every situation, exempting one from the worries of life so central to our lives or a requiring all the world to circle one small center of the universe. It is a proactive decision to not have innocent doves and wise serpents be equal, but 60/40 in favor of doves. It is gentleness revealed by being on another's side before they are.

Gentleness is not passivity but spiritual judo to be balanced and willing to be rebalanced as contexts change, to be interior to the fear of another for the purpose of transformation of their sense of balance. If we can get away from a preoccupation limiting prayer to words, this dance with our worries or fears may offer a larger prayer experience and peaceful/joyful responses.

= = = = = = =

be gentle with your neighbor
as you are gentle with yourself
in this Law is found beyond law
prophets beyond profits

let this gentleness be made known
as we urge one another to namaste
a Holy One within them
that is kin to our own

intentional naiveté blesses violence
not by outlawing it
but revealing
an unacknowledged option

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