By Rev. Dr. Harold Weicker
Some of you know that during Carol‟s and my recent trip to the United States, I went to San Francisco for a few days to take care of my brother, Ted.
A former captain and commander of a tank platoon in the First Marine Tank Battalion in the Korean war, Ted, who was 6‟2” now weighs a mere 156 pounds, and his mental acumen is quite diminished.
The night before I was leaving, I cooked Ted an early supper. We chatted a bit, and then retired to our bedrooms at 7:30. An hour and a half later, as I was reading in bed, my bedroom door opened, and here was my brother, in his underwear, looking somewhat disconnected. Discovering me, he said, “Harold, I love you.” Close to tears, I replied, “I love you too, Ted.”
We have always loved each other, but, after Ted‟s experiences in the carnage of Korea, he never talked about his feelings. Now, almost 60 years after that war, as my Marine Corps hero comes closer to the end of his days, in his frailty, love is the only thing that counts, and Ted can finally reach and express what he always felt. Hopefully, this will be the same for you and me when, in whatever our circumstances, we, too, find our inner core is love ... and, hopefully, not just towards the end our days.
When you strip everything away… worldly concerns… even religion… you come to realize that, as many things fade into the background, the center of life holds true: Love: our love, and the love of our beloveds. Love like gold rises from the dross of life.
In his remarkable book, Man’s Search For Meaning, the famous psychiatrist and humanitarian, Dr. Viktor Frankl, recounts times of his great suffering and despair in a Nazi death camp. One night, on a forced work detail, he recalled, “We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the
camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. The man marching next to me whispered suddenly: “If our wives could see us now! I do hope that they are better off in their camps and don‟t know what is happening
That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind… as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and time again, dragging one another up and onward. (Thinking about my wife) a thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life, I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and highest goal to which people can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of men and women is through love and in love.
Continuing with ghastly details of that slave, work detail, Dr. Frankl went on to say… “In such a position, a person can, through loving contemplation, of the image he, or she, carries of their beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life, I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”
“My mind still clung to the image of my wife… I knew only one thing – Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in the beloved‟s spiritual being… in their inner self… Had I known then that my wife was dead, I think that I would still have given myself, undisturbed by that knowledge, to the
contemplation of her image… and that my mental conversation with her would have been just as vivid and just as satisfying. „Set me like a seal upon thy heart, love is as strong as death.‟
I don‟t know what I can add to Dr. Frankl‟s revelation that “The salvation of men and women is through love and in love.”
Dear friends, the fact is we are saved by our beloveds… because our beloveds bring out and develop our love. Our beloveds help us realize our need to love and to respond in love. Here is the gospel (the Good News) of Jesus written time and time again in the hearts of men and women… the truth of the salvation of love in all our needs and aspirations.
When Dr. Frankl says, “a person can - through loving contemplation, of the image he, or she, carries of their beloved - achieve fulfillment,” I especially think of Jesus and Carol… then family and others… and I hope that you, too, find fulfillment in your contemplation of the image of your beloveds… or had you not thought of that?
Jesus‟ emphasis on loving one‟s neighbor was rewritten for me in San Quentin prison years ago. I think I have told some of you about a retreat I made with about 25 residents in San Quentin. At a particular moment during a meditation, a huge, African- American fellow, with biceps as thick as your thigh, and prison tattoos all over his neck and arms, rose up and sang:
“Help me Jesus to love my neighbor as myself/ Help me Jesus to love my
neighbor as myself/ He doesn‟t care about the color of your skin… or the religion you‟ve been in/ Help me Jesus to love my neighbor as myself.”
There it was: the second great commandment… individually developed over the centuries in the Spirit… expressed in a way, time and place that you would least expect… never mind deeply understand. This essential part of the Gospel of love resonated that day in San Quentin in the hearts of hard men who were trying to find their way back… including me.
What Jesus taught two thousand years ago lives today and forever. The Master lays out the paths of love again and again in our hearts and in the love of people around us… our beloveds who, with the Great Beloved, are our salvation.
When all is said and done… When all the theologies and religious strategies have passed… When the busyness and conflicts of the world… including churches… are over… love will still stand as the doorway to everything that counted as truth and life.
When he was a young man, my dear friend and guide, Sam Shoemaker, the famous evangelist from the Episcopal Church in the 20th century wrote a poem… a prayer to God… the last verse of which went like this:
“Take then, my now clear prayer/ Make it apply when shadowy words shall flee/When the body, busy and dying/ May eclipse the soul/ I pray Thee now, while pray I can/ Then look, in mercy look/ Upon my weakness – look and heed/ When there can be no prayer/ Except my need.”
We need to love. We need to be loved. How often we could say, “Then look, in mercy look, upon my weakness –look and heed, when I have no love except my need.”
Many people cannot love deeply because they do not know what true love is.
They were not raised in love. In the center of their being they do not trust love or know how to love. These people need a beloved to show then the way… and lead them out of their fear and solitude. Jesus says, “Come unto me all you that carry heavy burdens, and I will refresh you.” In all your need, come to Jesus as your beloved, the sharer of your
deepest being … the lover of your soul… and look to him as your dearest constant. In his love, take the risk of reaching out to those potential beloveds who can grace your life and help you move forward along your way… not unlike the men in Dr. Frankl‟s death march who supported each other in order to survive another day.
“I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and highest goal to which people can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of men and women is through love and in love.”
Live in love: love for your God; love for those dearest to you… love for your neighbor. In your contemplation of your beloveds, you will live your salvation and change so much within you and around you.
Thanks be to the love of God in all beings. Halleluiah!
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