When working with the homeless it is easy to be angry. It is easy to look at those who have and say, "Why are you so selfish!" It is easy to look at the poor who take advantage of each other and to yell at them for the fact that they are dragging their own brother down. It is easy to be angry at oneself for not doing enough. There is so much stress and sorrow all around, it is easy to despair, to give up, to give in to the cultural pressures of greed and an easy life.
This is why I found this meditation by Richard Dahlstrom so helpful:
He reflects on one of my favorite books, The Brother's Karamozov, and my very favorite character, Father Z. But he pulls something out of the book I had never considered myself.
Also, in this theme, we should always remember Psalm 73. See my commentary on this here:
Meditation: Fyodor speaks...
Watch a little 60 minutes, or read a little news these days and there's a good chance you'll become angry at someone, or some political party, or some bank CEO, or maybe someone named Bernie. The anger and fear that are coursing through our culture right now are dangerous at many levels. Give in to these fleeting emotions (and it is remarkably easy to do so these days), and they become the soil for bitterness, greed, and isolation. These emotions, and the actions that stem from them, end up spilling into the world with the result that we become part of the problem rather than part of the solution, losing our saltiness; hiding our lights.
That's why the words of Father Zossima from The Brothers Karamazov, are so timely. I offer them, italicized, with my own prayers after each word.
If the evil doings of men move you to indignation and overwhelming disrress, even to a desire for vengeance on the evildoers, shun above all things that feeling.
Grant, O Lord, that I might see with Your eyes when my heart is moving toward the dark spaces of bitterness, anger, and judgment. And seeing these things that are destructive, bring conviction, that I might be quick to turn away.
Fear not the great nor the mighty, but be wise and serene.
It's easy, O Lord, to feel as if we're victims, tossed about by the whims of those in power. Thank you for the truth that we are, in spite of the stormy seas and whims of men, safest when we are in your arms. May we learn to dwell there with ever increasing steadfastness, and in so dwelling, know your peace and rest.
Love all men. Love everything. Water the earth with the tears of your joy and love those tears.
Yes Lord. Zossima was right. Open my eyes to see your glory, resplendent as always, even in these trying times. The new blossoms arise from the earth, testimony of your sustenance and hints of greater beauty yet to come. The cat is at rest, oblivious to the strivings of humanity. The days grow longer. The sunlight and shadows on the firs testify that you continue to uphold the earth, that beauty still exists, that provision still comes from you, that all shall be well. Give me eyes to see what is so easily seen when I but look - the beauty of the earth. Thank you for tears of joy that come when your beauty, seen in your creation, pierces my heart. Amen
It's all a matter, it seems, of where we choose to fix our gaze. Ah yes, it's wise to read the news, prudent to take action. But we would do well to see the light and shadows, the cat, the blossom, the hints of life bursting forth, for these are the shoutings of our good God intended to bless and fortify our souls.