World Communion Sunday Reflection
In 2009, a book entitled Mandela’s Way: Fifteen Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage was published. In the book, the author, Richard Stengel writes about the amazing, courageous and compassionate life of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected president and the lessons he learned in his many years working to end apartheid in his nation. In the preface, Mandela speaks about a powerful African concept called Ubuntu which informed many on the African continent in their struggles to end colonialism. He spoke of ubuntu as “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others.”
Other writers have described this term to mean our common “humanity,” translated as “I am because we are, and the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.” Let us pray, O Holy One of Many Names, we gather this day to be reminded of our common humanity, to remember through Jesus’ own life, the ways in which we each are inextricably linked to the wellbeing of our brothers and sisters throughout the world. Inspire within us the courage to speak and act on behalf of one another and especially the lost and the least. Amen.
Many spiritual writers speak about this beautiful language of humanity as a means to remind us that we are all beloved Children of a God and by recognizing that, we share a responsibility as Christians and members of other faith traditions to live that out whenever we can. As chair of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke about Ubuntu by connecting if to the Christian principles of goodness. He offered that the person true to Ubuntu is one who is “generous, hospitable, friendly, caring and compassionate.” Tutu said that at its heart Ubuntu is calling us to an understanding that “I am human because I belong, I participate, I share.”
This past week, we watched with deep sorrow the unfolding of the devastation that hit the coast of Florida…and before that, of Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Maritime provinces of Canada. We could see the pain in the faces of people as they described their losses and we suffered with them. So too, we have been overwhelmed by reports of the war in Ukraine and our hearts ache for those who have lost so much, for those who have lost everything. It is our common humanity that connects us to their suffering. It is a gift to us to know that we are connected in such deep ways. To be compassionate is to feel with another, and so we share in others’ suffering and we share in their joy. The real challenge which too often leaves us at a loss is to imagine ways in which we may alleviate one another’s suffering, because I do believe that is also part of what we are called to do as followers of Christ. We are responsible for one another, and while we cannot do everything, we can do something.
As we continue to watch the divisions unfold across our nation and around the world in recent years, we wonder what this means for us. How do we hold onto hope. How do we not allow our differences to separate us, including this beautiful and beloved church? Who are we to be as a people of God bound to one another? The way we choose to answer that will have ramifications that will resound into the future.
In his reflection, WE ARE ONE AND MANY, Rev. Richard Rohr says that, we can engineer a badly needed love revolution to rise up out of the ashes of our current reality. . . . The empathy that grows from listening to others, from connecting with our neighbors, and from loving our neighbors as we love ourselves can define the courses of action we take.” He draws from the spirituality of Julian of Norwich (1343–c. 1416) when he says, “The divisions… of the world can only be overcome by a unitive consciousness at every level. A transformed people unite all within themselves, so they can then do the same in the world. Julian of Norwich, used the term “oneing” to describe what happens between God and the soul. As Julian put it, “By myself I am nothing at all; but in general, I am, I hope, in the oneing of love . . . for it is in this oneing that the life of all people consists.” She continued, “The charity of God creates in us such a oneing that when it is truly seen, no person can separate themselves from another” and “In the sight of God, all humans are oned, and one person is all people.” 
I pray, my friends, that we may explore the deepest places in our own hearts and souls to guide us to a spirit of love, of compassion and of reconciliation as we live out our faith. We know our world desperately needs this love revolution and we each can practice this in the places in which we inhabit…our families, our communities, our church. We may be a great force for the spirit of love, the spirit of healing, the spirit of connection. We may be a part of the movement which helps us division and brokenness by embracing the best of what our faith tradition requires of us, to love and to love in all embracing ways…’to love one another as God loves us.” Amen.
-CAC, Rohr, Feb 7, 2022