Cruelty is Not Christian
Although the Great Society, as ours has sometimes been called, has some favorable aspects, it must also be admitted that the American way of life is not without its failures. One area of grave fault is that of cruelty.
We are in many ways a cruel people. And one of the objects of our cruelty is God's created world. And if good men have for years been pointing this out — one of our own among them1 — it has only lately come home to us that we have reduced the place God gave us to live on, to such a state of squalor, debauch and waste, that it is an open question whether or not we can ever make it all good again. The land, the rivers, the lakes, the seas, the air we breathe, outer space itself are all of them polluted by man's noxious debris, his filthy greed, and his noise. And the horror continues.
That being so, it is good that we gather on this hill2 in prayer to God. For pardon, for one thing, for our sins against His creation. In thanks, for another, that despite our wretched abuse of what He gave us, that we may at least express our desire to be grateful. In petition also, that He would help us in our need, that sin and darkness might not be so strong in us, that we may be less cruel to one another, that we may be less cruel also — since all our actions flow from our heart — to field and forest, to hill and valley, to every presence of our sister water and the sweet spirit which is the air we breathe.
When man wounds another man, when he kills him, it is himself he wounds, himself he kills. And when man is cruel to anything God created, man ultimately is cruel only to himself. And this cannot be. For if we cannot lay a cruel hand on our brother, neither can we on wind, on water, or on the earth. Nor indeed on one's self. Hatred is not Christian. Cruelty is not the law. Love is. For God. For our brother. For one's self. And for all that God has made.
Our gathering here today is testimony of this, a witness to these truths and our determination to live by them. That being so, let us bless the bread and the wine and eat and drink them together in Christ's holy love, on this lovely afternoon on this lovely hill, in sight of the surrounding lovely countryside and in the shadow of His Cross. Amen.
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1. Probably a reference to Father Louis (Thomas Merton).
2. In the 1970s, Gethsemani's
annual May "Rogation" Mass for the Blessing of the Fields was usually celebrated
atop "Holy Cross Hill," a small hill opposite the monastery surmounted
by a large stone cross, and from which a wide panoramic view of the monastery,
its fields and the surrounding countryside was afforded. The Mass "entrance"
began from the monastery church with a procession led by several monks
carrying thematic banners, then a crossbearer, thurifer and acolytes carrying
the offerings for the Mass, followed by the community, the vested
concelebrants and the abbot who presided, and finally by the lay retreatants
and neighbors of the surrounding area. The procession crossed the highway
near the monastery and proceeded up the hill singing hymns and psalms
until the top of the hill was reached, where the banners were mounted in
a wide semi-circle behind the portable altar and the Mass began. Near the
end of the Mass a special blessing of the monastery fields and the neighbors'
fields was given by the abbot from the hilltop in the four directions of
the compass . It was on one such occasion that the brief homily above was