Herodotus of Halicarnassus is generally credited as being the “Father of History,” because he was the first writer in the West to employ a method of systematic investigation of events and personalities that led to a larger narrative of what transpired in and around the Mediterranean world in the 5thcentury before Christ. I have the Landmark edition of Herodotus’ Histories, and as I spend time immersing myself in a world far removed from our own, what strikes me most often is just how little has changed in 2500 years of human history.
An offense leads to retribution, which leads to vengeance seeking.
A thirst for power and influence consumes a king and a nation, while leading to suffering for many.
Happiness and joy elude those who seek it through material means, and reside with those whose wealth is in relationships and community.
One does not have to look far past the headlines of our day to see that we humans still spend so much time playing the tit-for-tat game, and invest a disproportionate amount of our hopes and energies in vain and fleeting ego-based pleasures to the detriment of communal advancement. The fate of the Holy Land, a trade war between the US and China, the rise of social media influencers and their shallow ambitions. We live in a time that feels so technologically superior and different to the ages that came before, that we often applaud those who encourage us to turn away from learning the hard lessons from earlier generations’ past mistakes. And yet, by remembering our history, our herstory, and ourstory as human beings, we just might find solutions that will lead us past the pitfalls to which our ancestors fell prey, and find peace together in the current age.
Jesus was one of the first to see the cyclical nature of our ignorance and offer a different way forward. Instead of seeking revenge for an unjustifiable offense, Jesus instructed his followers to turn the other cheek. Instead of embracing the temptation of trading integrity for power, Jesus yoked servanthood with lasting kingship. Instead of touting the things that moth and rust consume as markers of wealth, Jesus pointed to the eternal bonds that link together the mystical Body as the font of abundant and rich life.
All of us seeking to follow Jesus on this divergent path must tread a difficult road. On one hand, we must be “in the world” enough to speak and interpret the language of our times and discern how the ebb and flow of worldly pursuits call us to respond as a community of faith. And yet, we also have to invest the majority of our energy, concern, and time in an entirely different way of being human which reads as loss on the ledger sheet of the world, but treasures in heaven according to Jesus’ estimation. Wise as serpents and innocent as doves. The challenge of living in these two “cities” are many, and the main resources we have to keep at it are the record of how our ancestors in the faith did it (Holy Scripture), and the support of fellow pilgrims on the way (Community/Church).
How are you drawing on those resources today and this week?
How are you remembering your history and walking with others in order to write a different kind of chapter in the times you inhabit?
This is the last weekly Epistle we will send out until September (we will send one a month in June, July and August). As such, I encourage you to give this exploration of history and reinvestment in community special attention throughout the summer. Not only will such efforts lead to your soul’s peace in the midst of a world at war with others and with itself, but they will also reveal the strength that comes from being connected to all those ancestors in the faith who had to make similar choices in their own time. That strength, coupled with the power of God uniting all sisters and brothers who make that same choice today, is what animates the Christian community to hope and work for what we see in a mirror now dimly, but will one day know fully from seeing each other face to face.
Blessings on this journey of remembering our history and reimagining and shaping our future.
Yours in Christ,