Monday, October 31, 2011


I'm reminded today that Thomas Merton once said that a monk should ask himself everyday why he is a monk.  I imagine this question provokes as much as it consoles.  Why am I a Christian?  Why do I follow the 'transgressive' rabbi from the Galilee?  I wonder if these questions demand the same kind of mindfulness, discernment.

Jerusalem Cross on the Gate of the Church of Dominus Flevit
I wander these holy hills and paths with a remarkable delegation of Jews and Christians.  We've spoken with Arab Muslims and Arab Christians and all kinds of Jewish leaders.  Why, in this inspiring mix of traditions and cultures, have I chosen the Christ as my teacher?  What is it about his gospel that intensifies this yearning in my heart--for peace, for contact, for communion?

This afternoon, we visited a Palestinian Youth Project--an inspiring community of 20 young adults studying nonviolence and training as organizers for the common good.  They danced for us!  I mean, they really, really danced for us.  There was a kind of "Riverdance"-energy to it, all arms and legs and rhythm.  I looked around at the stunned, joyous faces of our delegation: my good friend, the rabbi; a minstrel monk whose face glowed with wonder; a Sufi wonder-worker with tears in her eyes.  The music went on and on and on; the dancing moved round and round and round.  With every revolution, something like the fire that burned once before Moses, in what seemed an ordinary thicket.

No such thing as the ordinary here.  All of it, extraordinary!  All of this ground, holy!

And why am I a Christian tonight?  I guess it has something to do with the risks I've taken in his name: to believe in this diversity, to cast my lot with the optimists who haven't given up on peace.  Why do I follow the rabbi?  Precisely because he breaks the rules, breaks bread with all kinds, then reaches into my heart and breaks it.  Then weeps with me.  Then picks me up to dance.

I will do what I can to ask Merton's question every day.  I will do what I can to find in my deepest parts--flesh, muscle, heart, soul--the spirit of the risen One.  Whose teaching has brought me here.  With wildly wonderful colleagues and friends.  Into the broken heart of a holy land.