Holding Pain, Suffering, and Fear

November 16, 2015
lit candle

From Mary Elizabeth Moore, Dean and Professor of Theology and Education, Boston University School of Theology

Dear Beloved Community,

As we continue to receive news of the terror in Paris, I write you with anguish that is too deep for words. I know that you carry the heaviness as well. In these days, I pray that the human community will face the depths of this terror and will seek to understand the violent structures and actions that breed such wanton destruction of precious lives. I pray that the human community will put an end to scapegoating, and begin to see the world more complexly and the call of Love and Justice more clearly.

In the best of Islam, jihad is the struggle to bring about good, or striving toward good. In the best of Christianity, discipleship is following the radical love of Jesus Christ. In the best of Judaism, hope is focused on God and the potential of God’s people to contribute to tikkun olam, or repair of the world. In the center of Buddhism is compassion. These religious traditions are complex and they are not the same, but we have much to learn from one another and abundant work to do if we are going to walk together through horror and fear, and work together to seek and create hope for tomorrow.  


Holding Pain, Suffering, and Fear


The horror is unthinkable – almost unbearable:

            Suffering will continue far into the future,

                        Fear will endure even beyond the future,

                                    And suffering and fear will dwell within us.


We mourn the terror in Paris –

            The lives lost, the lives maimed, the lives of loved ones left behind,

                        The lives mutilated by violence,

                                    And the lives threatened by more violence.


We mourn the violence and suffering in Baghdad and Beirut,

            In New York, Charleston, and Umpqua Community College,

                        In the actions of “our people” and the actions of “other peoples,”

                                    In acts of wretched hate where love and compassion could dwell.


Can faith help us now?

            Can we seek the best in our traditions,

                        and seek the best in others?

                                    Can we see the Holy in our neighbors and ourselves,

and see the thin threads of life in smoke-filled air?


Can we resist the temptation to blame

everyone but ourselves?

                        Can we resist the temptation to shrink other religions

                                    into small, tight boxes

                                                that cannot hold their holiness and beauty?


Are we able to open ourselves to pathways of love, justice, and peace

            that stand at the center of every religious tradition?

                        Are we able to listen closely to others –

                                    to hear their suffering and their passions and hopes?


In this week of terror,

            we can barely hold the pain.

                         Hope will have to wait,

                                    but it will come

                                                and it will hold us in the pain

                                                            and in the horrible sense of loss

                                                                        and in the fear of more loss.


Hope will bring no simple comfort,

            but it will speak to our depths

                        and tap into our compassion,

                                    touch us with Holy Presence

                                                and invite our determined action

                                                            … … when it comes

                                                                        but, for now, we wait and mourn.


 Photo Credit: Rolf Schweizer Fotografie, Flickr Creative Commons