I feel sorry for the soldiers patrolling the streets of Srinagar. They have to enforce their government’s will against the will of the people who are furious and frustrated. ‘If I raise the Indian flag voluntarily that is integration’, one of them said, ‘but forcing me to do it is sheer occupation. We are back in the middle ages when kings invaded and made the people bow to their will’.
So I pity the soldiers who will have to be alert to survive the hatred and hostility. Why should it be like this in 2019? We should be alert to things more worthy of our energy: how to welcome new life, for example. New life means daring to grasp a moment of growth as it comes. ‘Be like people dressed for action and have your lamps lit’ our gospel for Sunday tells us.
Edith Stein was Jewish and born in Germany in 1891. She grew up a devout Jew and was always proud of her identity and heritage. She was bright and soon soared in the academic world and worked with renowned philosophers like Edmund Husserl. But she was alert and open to life in the spirit. She read Teresa of Avila and was so touched by her that she became a Catholic Christian. She pursued her studies and became a teacher but lost her job when Hitler’s anti-Jewish laws came into effect.
She became a Carmelite sister and took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. As the gathering storm against the Jews gathered force her community moved her out of the country to the Netherlands. Then the Dutch bishops issued a pastoral letter condemning the Nazi policies and they responded by rounding up the Jews and sending them to the death camps. Offered an escape route Edith refused saying to leave her fellow Jews would be for her ‘annihilation’. With hundreds of others she was killed in the gas chambers on 9 August 1942, aged 50.
Edith Stein was aware that she would die. She had spent her whole life alert to all the influences that flooded in on her and had responded. She is renowned for her writings but even more so for her courage and faith and she was canonised by John Paul II just before the turn of the century. I mention her because she is an example of the kind of alertness that moves and draws us. She sought the fullness that life offers.
I fear for the soldiers of Srinagar. All they can be alert to is holding on to life itself. For them as of now there is no room for anything more nourishing.
11 August 2019 Sunday 19 C
Wisdom 18:6-9 Hebrews 11:1…19 Luke 12:32-48