When your eye is clear, your whole body, too, is filled with light; but when it is diseased your body, too, will be darkened. See to it then that the light inside you is not darkness. If, therefore, your whole body is filled with light, and not darkened at all, it will be light entirely, as when the lamp shines on you with its rays.’ Luke 11:33–36
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me. O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me. O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.
And it’s cool that the every morning chapel echoes my earlier morning readings. That’s what I love about liturgy, around and around the world in the hearts of men through time and space. I mean, it’s pretty cool starting off each morning with your school community reading Psalm 51 responsively. Life Together. And every morning this week we tied the Word of the Week of “Responsibility” in with simple obedience to follow Jesus. And just like it is the responsible thing to show up to school or to turn and listen to a classmate or to stand up and admit something that you did wrong, we are responsible for choosing our way. And every day this week a student also read aloud from Victor Frankl, who reminds us of that from the most despairing of circumstances.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose. Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
And we sang the same Negro spiritual every morning this week, “Gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside.” And Reverend Susan said this was the choice made in another set of despairing circumstance, slavery. We have been studying the Civil War in seventh grade. And that is another choice, not to carry grievances and judgments.
And that doesn’t mean it is easy. Ever. Really I walked out of school yesterday in quiet tears after just one too many kids piled rudeness onto my head. And I get that it’s not about me but sometimes I also get tired. So I was thinking about a Facebook post by one of my favorite posters, one of those many seventh grade students I have taught and now she is an ordained minister, about Why Listening Can Be a Gift by a guy who thought he was going to be a big shot preacher but ended up being a hospice chaplain. Which is a pretty humble place. And humility clears one’s eyes and fills the body with light.
btw I think I have taught pretty much every single seventh grader in Tucson. And I told that to the checkout lady at Fry’s on Wednesday because she remembered that I taught her son a bunch of years ago and now he has a felony charge against him because he was hanging out with the wrong crowd and a three-year-old son and they live with her and breaks her heart every day and the checkout girl at Safeway today said I was her favorite teacher and I didn’t right off remember her but her name tag said “Jasmine,” so that was easy. And I buy a lot of groceries because there are five men living in our house once again.
And who should I bump into as I walked down the street, pushing tired tears off my cheeks, but the Facebook poster girl’s father as he was running out of his brand new very cool grocery store that he opened downtown to get a good look at the guy who said he was going to punch him in the face because he doesn’t put price tags on individual items. And the many folks who are doing spice and meth and then come into his store to steal are so fried out they can’t even hardly notice what is going on as they try to stuff packages of food into their pockets. And now that the busses are running again, the Ronstadt Station is full of bodies again, and Mr. Cisek said that it reminded him of walking through Dante’s Inferno. Yep.
And every night this week I have been reading Anna Karenina for Book Club. And I can tell from the varieties of underlinings that this is my fourth time through this particular taped together copy. I gotta confess that I am only making it through about ten short chapters a night before I crumple into sleep. But every time I read it, I am reminded that Tolstoy exactly word by word nails the human heart, and I am reminded about For God So Loved the World, and How very grand and beautiful His mercy is.
And as I was swimming back and forth, I marveled and rejoiced over the prayer O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me, because whenever the characters in the story hit the end of themselves, they turn to God and this humble plea for mercy, with no other words.
And my thoughts started drifting into designing in my head a graphic organizer for going to The Children’s Museum Health Fair that morning because that sort of thing always helps middle schoolers clarify the purposefulness of Saturday School. And the rocket scientist guy next to me told me that he is flying to Moscow as soon as he pulls himself out of the water. Which of course put me back thinking again about Tolstoy and the morning prayer which I share with his characters. And twelve hours is a long time to travel, but I love traveling because I always think about the same thing, all the peoples of the world. And about this big God and this prayer for mercy. Because we have nothing else.
And I know the ending of Anna Karenina. And Lenin, who really speaks the heart of Tolstoy, as he gazes up into the night sky. It had grown quite dark and to the south, where he was looking there were no longer any clouds. The clouds had passed over in the opposite direction. From there came flashes of lightening and the sound of distant thunder. Levin listed to the regular dripping of the raindrops from the lime trees in the garden and looked at the familiar triangle of stars and the Milky Way intersecting it in the middle with these branches. At each flash of lightning not only the Milky Way but also the bright stars vanished, but as soon as the lightning died out the stars reappeared in the same places as though thrown there by some accurate hand.
Well , what is it that troubles me?” said Levin to himself, feeling in advance that the solution of his problem, though still unknown to him, was ready in his soul.
• • •
Bless the LORD, you angels of His, you mighty ones who do His bidding, and hearken to the voice of His word. Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, you ministers of His who do His will. Bless the LORD, all you works of His, in all places of His dominion; bless the LORD, O my soul. Psalm 103:20–22
And I sang all the way up the mountain.