“ Their bodies are buried in peace, but their name lives on generation after generation. Ecclesiasticus 44: 14
The ashes of Matthew Shepard were laid to rest yesterday in a crypt at Washington National Cathedral where Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan are also buried.. It was twenty years ago in 1998 that the openly gay twenty-one-year-old student was brutally beaten, tied to a fence and left for dead outside of Laramie, Wyoming. He served as an acolyte in his Episcopal church and always found church to be a safe place.. This picture from dailyoffice.wordpress.com is taken when he visited Rome in 1993. He wanted to go into the diplomatic service.
Matthew’s murder brought to our national awareness about hate crimes. I intermittently could do nothing else but say prayers all day yesterday for the hate and prejudices and partisanship so openly present in our country still today. In the past our prejudices were there but often secretly and carefully concealed. Today they are not hidden and most of us wear them like a fine garment.
Maybe this is a good thing. When our prejudices are open and on the outside, eventually we and others may see how ugly and harmful they are such as the recent bombing attempts sent to ten locations this past week. Hopefully the openness of all this ugliness will allow us to eventually realize we must walk across the aisle and listen to each other and eventually look for the divine spark, the God, the Christ in each other.
I am also always reminded that when I am so overcome by the sins of another, I must stop and evaluate what part that ugliness may also be in me. It as well is carefully concealed..
Sharing where we are on this journey with spiritual friends can give us insight and sometimes peace. When our prejudices are just in our head, they sound so reasonable, but when we speak them out to another, sometimes they sound so awful, and they lose their power.
My experience also is that the awfulness of hate and prejudice develops because of the absence of love. Hate and fear seem to fill the vacuum when love is not present or has never been offered.
Offering and being more open with the love we know is at least a starting place for all of us. Another starting point is praying daily for those with whom we disagree. Barbara Crafton in her note yesterday reminds us that praying for those we consider enemies can turn them into human beings rather than monsters as we turn them over to God for God’s love when we are not capable of it.
Let us continue to pray for each other, especially as this mid-term election comes closer.