February 5, 2008

Human Responsibility and Divine Response

a meditation for the beginning of Lent

Lord, look at the nations engaging in war
as they ravage, destroy, and slay.
Why is it, O Lord, that you seem to ignore
all this violence, day after day?

My beloved, I gave you the power to choose
to love one another or not.
You have chosen the latter, and now you confuse
what I gave you with what you have got.

Lord, look on your people now stricken with AIDS
as they perish, waste, and die.
Is it nothing to you that this virus invades
as you watch from your throne in the sky?

My beloved, I gave you the cure for this ill
in the bark of a tropical tree;
but you burned down the forest to fatten the till.
You made that decision, not me.

Lord, look at the peoples divided by race,
by language, culture and clan.
Why not give us each the same color and face?
Please tell us, Lord, what was your plan?

My children, I gave you your races and clans
that in contrast you might find delight.
Instead you have chosen to counter my plans
using race as a reason to fight.

Lord, look at the needy, the starving, the poor
who have insufficient to eat.
Why do you in silence and distance ignore
them, up there on your heavenly seat?

My beloved, I give you enough food for each,
that all might be filled and not die.
I have given you freely all that you beseech,
Yet you hold it and hoard it, not I.

Whatever we do, Lord, we seem to go wrong;
we turn all your good gifts to ill.
Lord, help us and save us—for we are not strong—
if your grace is offered still.

My children, I gave you a brother, my Son;
the very best thing I could do.
I gave you myself: that is what I have done,
and I made that decision for you—
I took flesh, and became one with you.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG, 1990


Erika Baker said...

Fr Tobias
thank you! This is beautiful.

And yet...I must be controversial again.
Yes, the world we find ourselves in is like this.
Yes, the examples you give are all down to us.
But, when looking at man's enormous capacity for cruelty to man, don't we have to ask why we were not created with a fuse that prevents the worst outrages?

Evolution and free will could (maybe?) still have been possible even if there was a limit to what we were capable of doing to each other.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Actually I think most people do have a "fuse" so to speak to deal with the worst problems. But I'm not sure the "worst" problems are really the "worst" -- and in a way pointing out the Pol Pot's may be a way to let myself off the hook for my own failure to share my resources more than I do. It's a tough question.

But it reminds me of an old John Cage story: I knew the remark of Rilke to a friend of his who wanted him to be psychoanalyzed. Rilke said, “I’m sure they would remove my devils, but I fear they would offend my angels.” When I went to the analyst for a kind of preliminary meeting, he said, “I’ll be able to fix you so that you’ll
write much more music than you do now.” I said, “Good heavens! I already write too much, it seems
to me.”

As finite beings, I think the amount of evil we can do is limited, even if it is too much!

Erika Baker said...

Ah, Fr Tobias!
As a German identifying deeply with what my own country did, I do struggle.

And looking at world wide issues like global warming and the suffering our trade system causes, I wonder about your last paragraph.

Hope - yes, that is ultimately what faith gives us. But it also poses more questions than we would otherwise have.

Country Parson said...

Thanks for this gift. I intend to use it often enough that I may even think it was my own. In response to Erika, I was taken by a short sentence I read this morning in McDougall's history of the North Pacific: "...the amazing thing about human beings is not their wickedness - that is universal and banal - but that occasionally they strive to do good."

W said...

Thanks, Tobias, this is beautiful indeed.

Anonymous said...

Please read this Lambeth essay by the conservative evangelical Bishop of Liverpool on the diocesean website:


Looks like Lent is taking hold among us all.

Anonymous said...

beautiful... I'm going to presume permission to put it in my newsletter, with attribution, of course. Erika, it is all about evolution, I believe. We - as a species - bred through self-preservation. In the fullness of time, God himself comes to tell us to stop living like animals and love each other. That means - abandon free will and trust God to care for us, ie, live into the image of God. The challenge of Christian life, I believe, is to appropriate God's unfathomable grace and live - as Jesus did - in absolute trust of God our Father. Being set free from the fear of death sets us free to love and help others. Thus does the Kingdom advance.

June Butler said...

Thank you, Tobias. Fine words for Lent.

I struggle often, because those of us who have three meals a day, a roof over our heads, a bed to sleep in, and a toilet that flushes are far richer than millions of people in the world. As John Dominic Crossan paraphrases the beatitude, "Only the destitute are innocent".