Sardinia and the “will of God”

sardiniaWhich are the first images coming to your mind if I mention “Sardinia”? Probably you immediately think about the sandy beaches of the Emerald Coast, the yachts anchored in the harbor of Porto Cervo and the  rich show-offers spending their summer nights (and tons of their money) in Flavio Briatore’s “Billionaire Club”. Well you are right: Sardinia is also all these things and, actually, this is for sure the image the Italian tourist offices want to give about the island.

The problem stands in that word: “also”. What touristic brochures tend to hide is the other aspect of Sardinia, the dark one, so deeply in contrast with the glamorous vision of Emerald Coast luxurious life.

Forget for a moment about the small strip of the North-Eastern Sardinian Coast you already know (perhaps you were so lucky to spend a holiday there or, at least, you saw it through the many V.I.P. people’s photos on the pages of all gossip illustrated magazines of the world). What is, then, Sardinia? Or, better, what are, then, the 7/8 of the island?

Well, let me tell you that Sardinia is not only a sort of ethnical anomaly in Italy, inhabited by a proud, strong, hard working population of autochthonous origin (though the thing is very discussed) you can easily recognize even in the complex picture of Italian ethnical groups, with the only Italian dialect internationally considered as a language on its own, with such a peculiar moral code to result almost incomprehensible even for the “Continentals” (as they call all other Italians).

Again, Sardinia  is also this. But what is most important for the life of the Sardinians is that Sardinia, the real Sardinia, is one of the poorest areas of Italy, according to some statistics the second poorest region of the Republic. According to ISTAT (the Italian government’s statistics agency), in the first quarter of 2013, Sardinia reported 452,000 inactive people, 3,200 companies bankrupted in the past five years, and 928 companies bankrupted just in 2012: quite shocking data if you keep into account that the whole island has some 1.6 million inhabitants (but is getting more and more depopulated for the constant migration of Sardinians looking for a job abroad or in other regions).

In the past, the zinc mines used to be a great source of income and granite was also exported all over the world, cool was extracted in Sulcis area and there were also projects for plants for the extraction of hydrocarbons. In the past: now the mines, all owned by non-Sardinians, are closed, now the flourishing secular handicraft industry is languishing and only last year around 3000 craftsmen lost their job, now even the promising IT industry established by a local entrepreneur near Cagliari is living the effects of the crisis and of the international concurrency. Now 3 Sardinians out of 20 have no job; now 1 young Sardinian out of 4 can’t find a job. The reasons are many: the Island has been exploited by many non-local enterpreneurs later finding more lucrative to move their business in other European areas, there are objective high costs of handling goods (the costs to carry products from and to Sardinia are twice the ones in Italy and three times more than in Europe), the orography of the place makes it difficult to create plants, etc.

And so? So Sardinia is now living mainly on tourism (but, pay attention, just a few touristic structures are owned by Sardinians) on its beautiful coast and on the traditional sources of income, agriculture and sheep-breeding, in less famous areas.

It is in this frame that the cyclone “Cleopatra” hit the island. Probably some missed the piece of news as, in the end, what happened is just a sort of “miniature” of the Philippine tragedy. In brief: an incredible amount of rain devastated the North of Sardinia, many rivers overflew,  the area around the city of Olbia was the worst-hit (in some places the water was up to 3m -10ft- deep), at least 19 people, including four children, have been killed and a number of people are still reported missing after rivers burst their banks, cars were swept away and bridges collapsed, hundreds of people have been moved from their homes and hundreds of farms have been destroyed, while the sheep farmers have lost thousands of animals.

A couple of days ago, watching the images of the devastation in his land on tv, a Sardinian friend of mine was crying and asked me a question which heavily touched me: “Why is God doing this to us? Sardinia is already so poor! Does He hate us?

How many people thought the same thing? How many people thought the same thing in so many other similar occasions?

Well, I have just one answer to my friend and to all the others asking this question: God has nothing to do with all this, human beings have!

Is Sardinia a poor island? No! It is virtually an incredibly rich, beautiful island, part of an incredibly rich, beautiful world, able to give food and life to everybody, to grant work, wellness and wealth to everybody. It is… or, better, it could have been, probably it could still be…

In Genesis 1, at the end of practically every creative act by God, we read “And God saw that it was good”. Could anybody, having the luck to observe a pristine, untouched natural spot and the perfect mechanism ruling it, deny the truth of these words? I don’t think so.  Then, going on reading we find, after the creation of the human genre: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth”. Here we come to the main point. God gave us this world as a gift, He trusted in us, he allowed us to subdue nature… But he also ordered to us to be fruitful! Shall we refer that adjective only to the idea we must multiply? I would say this would be limiting: He pronounces this command in the moment in which He gives His gift to humanity! Be fruitful! It’s like if He was saying: “Look, this is all yours, I give it to you to administer, do the best you can to get fruit from this enormous treasure I fully commend to you all!

The result? Well, I suppose I don’t need to say anything, but, anyway, I will say something, just three things directly related to what happened in Sardinia.

1)      why is Sardinia becoming so poor and is so hit by the crisis? Because unscrupulous entrepreneurs and corporations from everywhere have decided to take advantage of the island and of its people until the thing was helpful and profitable (thanks to the State helps to the Island entrepreneurship), then to throw Sardinia to the winds when profits have diminished, without thinking about the fact that they were putting  thousands of people out on the street;

2)      why is the number of environmental disaster increasing year after year (actually some sources report an increase by 1000% in last 45 years) all over the world, Mediterranean Sea included? Should I need to say? Do terms like “hole in the ozone belt”, “global warming”, “melting of glaciers” or “air pollution” sound familiar to you? Just to mention, a few days ago the Warsaw Worlds Conference about Environment resulted in a total failure: too many countries were refusing to control emissions, to accept environment-friendly protocols, etc. Probably the politicians of this countries and the members of the lobbies controlling them feel safe enough not to care about the tragedies, the destructions, the dead their behavior is provoking: they are not the ones dying, they are not the ones losing everything… Just poor, common people are…;

3)      how could it happen that an announced typhoon could provoke 19 (an possibly more) dead in Sardinia? Go and ask to the construction companies that have built residential condos on the banks of notoriously dangerous rivers. Go and ask to the subcontractors that pushed up the cost of construction of dams till the point to force the stop work as funds were exhausted. Go and ask to the firms that built roads and bridges with sand and third choice materials to increase their profits. Go and ask to the local and national politicians who approved continuous building amnesties only to save their  luxury villas from demolition and to be able to raise new funds for their campaigns…

Be fruitful” meant something different from “be fruitful for yourself and your lobby filling your safes”: the world was a gift from God to all of us, not just to a selected bunch of crafty bastards!

So, don’t put the blame on God for what is happening: God gave the gift to us, human greed is destroying it and probably a few things are as far as greed from God and His plans if we read; “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon”.

And let me tell you that watching the images of the Sardinian disaster and of many other disasters before it, day after day I understand more the sentence: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God”, but, in the meanwhile, people go on dying…

Good news: we are not that bad…

people huggingSometimes, reading my previous posts back, I realize I often get carried away by anger, disgust or indignation and I end up by behaving like the journalists of our news on tv: I just underline problems, bad behaviors  and negative aspects, giving the impression of a totally negative humanity.

Well, today I’d like to write about three episodes I lived or witnessed during last month and that go exactly in the opposite direction.

The first one is related to the soup kitchen I already talk to you about. I had been asked by one of the guys managing it to get to know the president of the association running the whole project: the meeting point was in front of the soup kitchen building and my friend, who was supposed to introduce the president to me, was a little late. Suddenly I saw a young rocker coming towards me. He was the typical kind of boy one is tendentially a little scared about:  you know, leather jacket with pentacle on the back,  black “Iron Maiden” t-shirt, leather half-gloves with studs, torn jeans and heavy military boots, the whole look being completed by a long uncultivated beard and hair arriving much below the shoulders. At first I thought he was one of the people the soup kitchen is taking care of but I must admit that when the guy started staring at me in a quite fixed way I got a little afraid about his plans. Then, very simply, he stood in front of me (honestly my eyes were wide open in that moment) and gently asked if was waiting for him: he was, in fact, the guy I was waiting for. We had a quite long chat and I got to know a little more about him: he is ending his studies at Milan University Medical School and he has already asked to join a “Doctors without borders” team as soon as he will finish his specialization in pediatrics; he has already been three times in humanitarian missions in Haiti and, but for organizing the soup kitchen, he also serves as volunteer on ambulances three nights per week (“Sorry If I look a little dummy today, but I had a double turn tonight and I managed to sleep just for three hours…”, he told me with a very embarrassed look, while I would have wanted to embrace him). The mystery of his look? He is paying his studies playing guitar in an emerging heavy metal band and, therefore, his way of dressing is just his “working uniform”.

The second episode is just something I saw coming back home from work by subway some days ago. Some five-six stops far from mine a young Indian father with his possibly 7 years old daughter got into my wagon and sat on the only empty seat in front of me, putting the little girl on his knees. Up to here nothing strange. What attracted my attention was what the man seating beside me did as soon as the two Indians sat: this middle aged man, with a serious, almost grim, aspect probably due to the fact he was wearing a long black raincoat and a hat lowered on his eyes, extracted a block and a pencil from the leather briefcase at its feet and started sketching the image of the girl. I feel a little ashamed in admitting that, observing the whole scene, the first idea which came to my mind was very negative: was he a maniac? Some sort of disgusting pedophile? A child molester? The impression got stronger and stronger when I noticed he was drawing faster and faster, like under a sort of raptus and he was keeping the block so that the people around couldn’t see what he was outlining. To my surprise, just one stop before mine, the man tore the sheet he was drawing on from the block, gave the sketch to the girl without saying a word but with a large smile and got off the subway: the girl was so happy of this little gift that, laughing, she started showing it around: it was just a very well done portrait of her embraced by the arm of his father.

Finally, also the third episode took place on the subway. Yesterday, while I was going to work, we all noticed the young Arab getting into the wagon: typical Arab tunic, long beard but without moustaches, mark of Allah on his forehead, shiny (some would certainly have used adjectives as “excited” or “wild”) eyes and, above all, a big backpack in his hands. In short, he was the terrorist’s prototype to which hundreds of images have accustomed us. Milan is inhabited by thousands of Arabs but, possibly, this one must have been particularly responding to the  common image of a fundamentalist if, when he sat down, something like 30 pairs of eyes were staring at him and, mainly, to his backpack, now between his legs. You can imagine the shock when, a couple of stops later, he stood up leaving his backpack on the seat: though nobody moved (nobody wants to be the first one to look fearful) probably thirty people (me included) were praying in that precise moment not to be victims of a bombing attack. Actually the Arab guy made only three footsteps to lightly,, almost fearfully, touch the shoulder of a pregnant lady who had just entered the wagon, to offer her his seat. The two started chatting (as much as the quite uncertain and basic Italian of the guy allowed) and very soon the ones around discovered that the guy was an Egyptian religious student just arrived to pay a visit to his uncle, the Imam of one of the Mosques of Milan (a very moderate Imam, as far as I know), he loved Italy but he had caught a bad cold (so, that’s way his eyes were so shiny)  and he was also an expert in pregnancies already having three sons.

Well, what do I want to demonstrate with these three minimal, everyday examples?

Perhaps I could say they teach us never to judge at first sight, never to try to evaluate people we don’t know basing our judgment on stereotypes we constantly absorb from mass media always ready to instill terror for the others (we all know that bad news sell more than good ones), making us always suspicious that anything terrible can be done by everybody. But I know many could answer me we live in a hard world and to pay attention to the ones around us is much surer than to trust in them. I don’t know: I actually prefer to give trust to a human being up to contrary test, just as it makes me live better, in a less paranoiac way, but I couldn’t say in theory they are totally wrong.

Or, perhaps, as a Christian minister, I could say that a human being created by a loving God as reflection of Himself can be sometimes weak, sometimes distracted, often misguided but can’t be fundamentally evil, can’t be a beast destroyed by the “original sin”, by the mark of Satan or by anything else so many depressed and depressive preacher have always tried to say to demonstrate our fundamental inner negativity. But I know a multitude could answer that for any positive action I could mention, they could mention ten times more bad actions of human beings. I actually believe things work the opposite way but I can’t deny from time to time we can be capable of really horrible things.

So, I am not going to say anything, I declare I don’t want to demonstrate anything with these small episodes.

I only know they cheered me up, they gave me hope and, therefore, I just want to share this hope with you: isn’t hope something we all need?

A logic God and the dogmas

god-explainingWe all know one of the most important characteristics of our being Unitarian Universalists is the refusal of every dogma. Have you ever asked to yourself the reason for this position?

I suppose the first question we have to ask to ourselves is “what is a dogma?” In definitional terms a dogma is “a truth which can’t be explained with the reasoning but which must be believed only by faith”.

What’s wrong with this? Actually many things.

The first and most important thing which is clearly unacceptable derives from the definition itself. If something can’t be explained by reasoning, it consequently falls into the category of the unreasonable things. So, the question immediately coming to my mind is: given that the capability to reason is one of the most important and distinguishing gifts we received from God, does it make sense that this same God giving us the “Logos” could show Himself to the human beings in a way so openly denying His gift?

Moreover, if these dogmas have no explication and don’t fall into the kingdom of logic, who can decide about the acceptability of their assumptions? Even more radically, who can enunciate them in the moment they refuse any self-evidence?

The common answer to this question is, generally speaking, that they come from an “inspiration” by God, which immediately turns the question into another: “what is an inspiration by God?” Once again starting from definitions, an inspiration can be considered (or, better, it is considered) a sudden revelation about a truth given by God to a single person or to a group of people.

Now, if we try to analyze this last definition, it is impossible not to see that it ends up clashing with some basic common beliefs of the Christian faith. Aren’t we all made after the “image of the Father”? Aren’t we all His sons in the same way? Why, therefore, should the Father choose only some few “elected” people to reveal His will and to disclose His mysteries? And, if God wants the salvation of His sons, the salvation of all of His beloved creatures indistinctively, why should He choose such an indirect way to reveal His ways? Why should He privilege some of His sons in respect to all the others? Ok, I know the immediate answer to this last objection: this is also the way He used to let us know His will through Jesus. Even forgetting about the fact that the strongest supporters of the dogmas are the ones also claiming about an ontological superiority of Jesus (or, more exactly even his divine being), a superiority with no comparisons with any other human being before and after him (a thing, this last, by itself denying the possibility of an equal role of “bridge between God and men” for anyone else), two more things must be said.

1)      All along his preaching Jesus never affirmed anything going against the logic and the rationality: his preaching, in its continuous underlining of the need for a pre-eminence of love, was, in many occasions, opposed to the morality of his times but never irrational (meaning with this something going against what we would now define “Aristotelian logic”). The same, for sure, can’t be said about many of the dogmas and of the rules which were later stated by his followers: let’s think, just to give a couple of examples, to the Trinitarian affirmation that “1=3”, clearly against the principle of identity , or, to come to more recent statements, that, as mentioned, all men are equally beloved sons of the Father but one of them is “infallible” speaking as a leader for all, which clearly goes against the principle of non-contradiction.

2)      Having a look to Church history, what clearly emerges is that in the definition of dogmas there was nothing divine and, on the contrary, they were just human products aimed to impose some hierarchic figure as “heavenly messenger” just to strengthen his power, in a political picture which, once again, is by far removed from the message of universal brotherhood of Jesus. This point is really central: in any occasion dogmas have always been tools of power in the hands of someone using them to subjugate the others. All councils have, historically, been examples of the attempt to impose an idea as “sacred” denying the validity of another idea and to destroy the claim of an equal “sacralized power” by someone else.

In this context, what is the most incredible thing to me is that these dogmas, as well as many “moral prescriptions”, though being, as any other human product, localized in time and space, have become, in the moment of their rise to a special role”, crystsllized, a-temporal and eternal, forming the basis on which to build new theories and to give new prescriptions endorsed by the previous statements. This system of self referentiality is just another example of a totally a-logic way to proceed: I state a datum basing its validity on another non-verified datum, in a process aimed only to form a corpus of suppositions given as absolute consequential truths.

The result is just to transform a message rooted on a bond of love linking God and human beings reciprocally and human beings to human beings in a cage of rules, prohibitions and ancient fantasies, ending up with a distortion of the original core of the teaching.

This doesn’t mean that humans can understand everything of God: the unbalance in the relation between Infinite divine Being and finite capability of vision of the human genre surely doesn’t allow it. This simply means all the black holes we will necessarily always have in our understanding of God can’t be filled with absurdities, fictionally derived rules and human created assumptions. Mainly, this means that we must never abdicate to the use of reason and we must never absolutise a human attempt to make us believe there are dark shadows in the divine logic governing this world.

Wherever we turn our sight on nature we can see there is a perfect consequentiality, a sharp mechanism governing the creation: everything makes sense, everything has a sense and a consequentiality, everything tells us about a logic God. Surely you can say God is not subjected to His own laws (it is what many people claimed for centuries) but the question stands: why should a God who created a world according to a perfect shape based on some laws deny the same laws only in the moment in which He refers to Himself, in the moment in which He reveals His will to the highest peak of His creation?

In our experience God is logic, human beings not always are: where could illogic statements come from? It’s up to us to decide.

“Probably”… “possibly”… “perhaps”… and the power of love

i_dont_believe_in_atheistsDuring last weekend I spent some hours in a soup kitchen run by some former students of mine.

But for fully realizing how many people beyond any suspicion attend those places and how deep (even deeper than I thought) the crisis in Italy is, I was really admired by the attention, care and gentleness that those guys, a little over twenty, allotted for a huge number of elders, spending time, money and forces to help less fortunate people without receiving any subvention.

Well, I know some of those guys quite well: some of them are Catholic, with ideas being very far from mine, some of them are declared atheists, some others, actually the majority, simply can’t care less about religion.  And yet, observing their work, the only thing I could think about was that I was in front of some of the best Christians I had ever seen, people really putting into practice Jesus’command “And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:5). I started thinking that, in the common idea of someone deserving salvation, guys like them, ready to give their time and love to perfectly unknown people in the name of a common human heritage, could possibly be in the first line of the so-called “saints”.

Could we say that they, at least the many atheists and agnostics among them, are probably Christians without knowing to be? Perhaps, but, I started asking to myself, would they ever agree with such a definition? Perhaps the point is just that they can’t care less about fitting into any definition. Or, perhaps, the thing is even more radical than this: perhaps the real problem stands in any attempt of definition of concepts like salvation, religiosity, necessity of faith…

“Possibly”, “probably”, “perhaps”… Returning home I began to think about how many times I happen to use these terms when it comes to religious matters.

Having Catholic origins and coming from Calvinism (though in its Remostrant form) it would have been impossible for me, up to some years ago, to live in such a lack of definitions and, even today, sometimes I ask to myself if so many uncertainties are permissible to a minister.

Shouldn’t I be the one leading the flock? Shouldn’t I be the one giving answers to questions? How could I proclaim the Gospel if so many “perhaps” crowd my mind? Shouldn’t I be monolithic in affirming my truths? In the end I proclaim to be Christian, I feel happy to be Christian, I love the teachings of Jesus, I try to be at least a little brick in the building of the Kingdom as much as I can: how does it happen that I can’t confine truth and salvation to Christianity, that I don’t manage to have the absolute certitudes of many other Christians that the true faith stands only in the Bible and that salvation is deserved only to the ones following my same path?

I have found three answers to these questions (and, obviously, I am not 100% sure of none of them).

The first answer stands at the real core of Unitarian Universalism and of its extremely anti-dogmatic approach to faith. Without fixed dogmas, institutional creeds and common superimposed beliefs, we are given the possibility never to absolutise our personal visions, in a total tolerance and acceptation for any faith and life-style not violating some basic principles of common living. It’s not always an easy way: on the contrary to the majority of the other Denominations, we are not given any ready-made path to follow (or, better, the path is, somehow, so large that, in many occasions, it is difficult to see its  borders) and the risk is to feel a little lost, from time to time, with so many doubts, so many possible interpretations, so many questions without a certain answer.

On the other hand, anyway, little by little I managed to understand that this is one of the most rewarding aspect of my faith, a faith asking to believers to be fully adult, fully responsible, fully self-determined in their decisions and evaluations. We are not asked to be like babies needing  a creeper to move and, at the same time, we are not elder brothers forced to hold our younger brothers on their way: we can walk together, hand in hand, reciprocally helping each other but each one using his/her own legs.

This is great to me: a real constant possibility of choice, of affirmation of responsible freewill, a daily critical acceptance of what we believe God is asking to His people, a true decisional capability in judging what is right and what is wrong, in keeping the direction we have autonomously chosen in any circumstance and in front of any person. I cook my life with my own recipe, choosing my ingredients every day, choosing my cook book every day and  never denying that any other recipe could be good as well although I prefer my own. And, folks, sometimes the dinner is not perfect but a real dinner prepared by my hands is, in any case, better to me than eating industrial homogenized baby food.

I deeply believe this is really Christian too! Isn’t any man a reflection of God as written in Genesis? This means nobody can take decisions for anybody else, can read and digest things for anybody else: we all have the strength and capability to judge events, readings, people on our own as we all have the sparkle of God inside of our soul and the guidance of His Spirit, whatever path we decide to follow. Moreover, this is also the way I interpret the passage of Matthew in which we read : “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38). We don’t find “my cross”, or “a superimposed cross”, but “his cross”: I suppose this means each one must decide and choose the way to follow the path and example of Jesus, which, in my opinion, is the path and the will of God, the path of the perfect love. And this  even in the case the person choosing that path of love doesn’t feel like calling it the Christian path.

My second answer is a consequence of the first one. To me the real expression of the will of God is, as said, love and, in particular love for human beings, for all human beings. In any human being I see the mirror of my God and I deeply believe that to serve the human beings in any form is the highest way to serve God. This is, I suppose, the meaning of the Great Commandment and this is the best expression of the spirituality of a person to me.  As said in other posts, I think theology is absurd in itself, being a pure speculation on an unknown object, more, on an unknowable object of thought. I could agree with a vision or the other but, in the hand, what could tell me whether I’m right or wrong? I think only faith, but faith is a personal element, depending on hundreds of variables. What stands, what really matters is love, the most universal element, perhaps the only one: the love I feel for the others, for my neighbors, the love I show in any action I take, even the little ones. And love has as many forms as the human beings are. So, on which bases should I judge a person, an action, an idea, on which bases could I think about revelations, salvations, sanctities (if any sanctity could ever exist)? On the bases of human ideas varying in time, space, environments, changing from person to person or on the expression of the only universal value practically all cultures consider a divine attribution  and all people consider as a source of goodness? So love, given love, factual love is, to me, the only discriminant element to judge a human being a person of God, a real believer in the values which are, in my opinion, the deepest expression of my God. And it doesn’t matter if his/her motivations are different, if his/her ideas are different from mine, if he accepts or not a role I would tend to give him/her, actually only on the bases of my beliefs: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8).

Finally,  my last answer comes from a verse I have always considered a little mysterious: “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). I have thought a lot about it, mainly in my seminary years. What did Jesus want to say? Was he just speaking about the purity of children? I don’t think so. Jesus was speaking about conversion, not only purity: what’s the meaning of converting to the faith of a child? Well, the answer I gave to myself derived from the memories of my childhood. At that time everything was plain and simple. In a way, God was the glue keeping the world together. He was the responsible for the creation, preservation and destruction of everything as He was the only one ever present, ever existing. Mainly, He was, in a way, a sort of synonymous of “Goodness”: if something was good, it came from God, that’s it. No other specifications were necessary, no denominational boundaries, no rules and subtle distinctions, absolutely no theological, legalistic, creedal exceptions of lawfulness.

Too simplistic? Perhaps but I wouldn’t say so. Rather, this means to me to give full room to the Spirit of discernment given to all of us and to get, I repeat this once again, full responsibility of our judgments, without external ready-made paths to follow.

Yes, I know: the risk to get lost is much higher, the engagement in the classification of any act is deeper but freedom has always a cost and, honestly, a God allowing me to be totally free in my self-directing, in the choice of my path, a God who recognizes an adult in me, who doesn’t force me to follow an handbook in the pursuit of what I consider the goals of my life is to me a God trusting in me and a God I can, in exchange, really trust in.

So, I will go on considering “saints” (in a very terrestrial meaning of the word and in the limit of what I can see of their actions, as I really can’t believe in the existence of any “total saint”) also people proclaiming their atheism, not having my same ideas, not following my same path, but acting according what I, perhaps following other directions, consider “good”, consider the strength of love.

So, I will go on having my own beliefs, following the meaning of what I understand of the words of my Master Jesus and I will go on proclaiming my vision, full of “perhaps”, “probably”, “possibly” where I don’t understand so well, full of “could be as well” where I will meet different visions (which doesn’t mean to deny my vision but to admit the possibility of different interpretations and different paths), full of possibilities to make mistakes, to get lost but also of the rewarding experience of a God always respecting the human freedom and free will.

Only on one thing I have no “perhaps”, “probably”, “possibly” but only 100% certitudes: that wherever I meet people able to give free love to any human being I will meet a soul mate, whoever he could be, because day after day I get surer and surer of one thing, that my God has no name but Love.

A true Thanksgiving

gratitude-2In a few days, in Italy, where we follow the Hungarian liturgical calendar, we are going to have one of the most joyful celebrations of the Unitarian tradition: the Thanksgiving day.
What is this celebration? Just the time when we want to say our thanks to the Entity which we consider superior to us, however we call it: God , Spirit of life , the Transcendent …the names don’t matter because each of us knows exactly who he is going to speak to.
Why do we say thank you? Maybe we think that there is little to be thankful for at this time when everyone, some more, some less, are touched, sometimes even in depth, by an economic crisis that seems to limit our horizons and our hopes. Or we think that everything that we have achieved is the result of our work, of our efforts, and that our successes have nothing to do with anything transcendent.
Yet, I just wish we stopped for a moment to reflect on a datum, to answer to a question: which is the essential element that unites all times of joy we have ever lived, we live and we will live in our lives? Which is the necessary condition for any feeling of happiness that has at any time touched, touches or we wish will touch our hearts?
You have five seconds to find an answer within your heart:
… four
… three
… two
… one …
Okay, found it? I am sure you have, because the answer is so easy to be contained in the question itself : the necessary condition to know at least a moment of happiness in life is life itself and it is for life, for our lives and for the lives of those we love that in a few days we will give thanks to God.
Yes, I know , most likely some of us are thinking, or at some time in their lives have thought, it would have been better never to be born, that life is just a great suffering without meaning, a continuous accumulation of problems and problems .
It’s true: sometimes life is just like that! Life can be complicated and not, as some say, especially now : it always has been, in every age, at every latitude. The complication is a constitutive part of life so that when, for whatever reason, it flows too placid, like a slow lazy river, in the end we like it less, it appears to us as dull, monotonous, even harassing and we end up trying to complicate it  on our own, at least a little bit, perhaps even inadvertently.
Why? Because the force of life, its true beauty, stands in every small achievement, internal or external as it could be, in every step we take, no matter how difficult it may be, in every obstacle that we overcome with the consciousness of having done our best.
But life, which is also this, is not only this. Let’s forget about sad medieval or counterreformation philosophers and theologians speaking of life as a kind of battlefield, a difficult test to earn heaven or hell. What a sad vision these people had to have about God to make Him just a kind of judge or referee, intent to measure with a precision balance how much faith we have shown, if we have always been obedient to laws , if we have suffered and cried for the wounds of Jesus, if we were always strong in faith in the face of adversity!
Let’s forget that God of pain, that little sadist God who already knows how things will end but, the same, tests us by placing before us a stake after another. That God is not our God, that God is the product of sad,darkened, depressed minds, locked in prisons they have built with their hands, both physical prisons, made of cold and wet cells of monasteries, and mental prisons, made of dogmas and inviolable formulas. That God is the result of a human thought which closes its borders, which limits its gaze.
Our God, the Deity we believe in is different : our God is a loving God, who created us with love and for love. He is a God who Himself is love and, as such, He is a God of the possible, a God of hope .
Did you happen to be in love? Not of God, I mean, but of a man or a woman ? What is the first gift that springs inside of us when we are in love? Beyond any connotation or any momentary specification, the first gift of love is hope and, with hope, joy.
Another “five seconds question”: can you remember a time, during last year, in which at least for a moment you felt full of joy and hope? Try to visualize it and to remember what you felt. But be careful: you must not think about great joys or incredible moments. I do not think many of you this year have won the Lotto or have had a promotion that has doubled your salary or have had a turning point in their lives: these are rare things, drops of impossible that sometimes fall on this or that life but they are not, after all, part of the lives of many. I am referring to a very simple moment: a sudden revelation, a kiss, a hug, a handshake that made us feel human warmth, even just a glance that we did not expect.
Here we are, let’s try to visualize that moment. Five
… four
… three
… two
… one …
Done? How did you feel ? Well, I guess. I do not see you, but I’m sure that at least some of you are smiling: to remember a moment of joy and hope is, somehow, like living it again .
Well, now, after having thought about that moment of joy, try to think that it wouldn’t have existed if you hadn’t been alive, if at a certain moment of the long flow of time God had not decided, in an unexpected and free act of love, to create us, to give us life .
Don’t you feel, now, a little bit more in love with life? I hope so . And being in love with life means being in love for the sake of the One who gave it to us . Don’t we want to say “thank you” to Him? At least a small “thank you”, even only for that instant?
Of course we are all polite people and perhaps you have already thanked, at least in your heart if not verbally, the person who gave us that moment of joy, warmth and hope.
But there is the necessary condition of which we have spoken: if you have felt it was right to say “thank you” for a moment, isn’t it right that we say “thanks” to the One who made this moment possible and, hopefully, will make many other moments like that possible?
So, let’s say thank you to life, to the force of life, to the possibility of life and, in doing so, let’s say “thank you” to the One who gave us this force, this possibility. Let’s thank God and say it together, because together, holding hands at least virtually, our thanks from a whisper becomes a roar inside of us, it becomes a new force of life and hope.
This would already be enough. I do not believe in a God that spends his infinite time listening to praise and aggrandizement as a king sitting on his throne: I believe, though, in a God who loves and, as such, loves to be loved and there is no form of greater love than to feel gratitude for the love that you receive.
Yes, that would be enough. But something more is perhaps possible.
You’ll certainly happened to go to dinner with friends or relatives. What do you do when you go? Well, we said we are polite people, and as such, most likely we bring flowers, chocolates, a bottle of wine with us: in short, anything that could tangibly show our gratitude and our love. It is not necessary, we all know: the true friends know that love does not depend on a small gift, which is just something more, a way that, when there is a bond of love, just goes to show deeper feelings. It is not necessary, but we do it and we feel good doing it.
Well, what I’d like to ask to everybody, if you can, if you feel it is right, is to do the same to God: bring a flower to life, bring a flower to God, resolve to do it and do it really.
How? Please do not bring flowers in front of a statue or picture: a statue or a painting can’t care less about our flowers, rotting there until someone throws them away.
It is not in a statue or an icon that we have the image of God, but in our brethren, in those who share with us the inexhaustible gift of life. It is to them that we can bring our symbolic flower, trying to make their lives at least a little less complicated: let’s give an helping hand, let’s give a little help to those in need, let’s give a smile to those who receive too few smiles, let’s pay attention to those around us, let’s donate a bit of human warmth. For each person we will be agents of joy and hope for, we will say thank you to our God for our lives, we will be partakers of that great stream of love and hope that is life itself, the same life for which we are giving thanks to God.