The Spirit “Flames Out Like Shining from Shook Foil”

Living Faithfully to the Gospel Challenge to Love
Simone Campbell, SSS
March 1, 2018

Let me state the obvious: 2017 was an extremely challenging year! But let me also say I am surprised that so much of the promised Trump agenda has not come to pass. I am surprised that Senator-elect Doug Jones, a Democrat, recently won the special election in Alabama. I am surprised that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to be the law of the land. I am surprised that what I saw as a “steam roller” a year ago has been slowed. But as I reflect on this past year, perhaps my biggest surprise is how difficult it is to be faithful to the challenge to love… even our “enemies.”

Our fight against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act taught us deeper collaboration with our friends in the faith and secular communities. Telling our stories to our Representatives and Senators protected healthcare for 20 million people. The ACA isn’t perfect and it keeps getting undermined administratively, but we were able to help ensure that it remains the law of the land and our people have access to care.

In the process, I learned that when we work with great focus and determination we, the broad NETWORK community, make an important political contribution. I have learned again that it is fighting for a vision that makes the difference. When we communicate a clear vision of an alternative future, we draw in more people who hunger for something new. But this alone will not create the change we seek.

The challenging additional truth is that we are called to “radical acceptance” of even those we vehemently disagree with. For me, this means holding the person with care and attempting to live the Gospel command to love. I find it very challenging when it comes to our President and Congressional leadership. But I have worked this year to develop empathy for our President who is obviously preoccupied by big words, the “truth,” and his approval ratings, to name just a few concerns. While I vehemently object to his policy agenda, I am attempting to hold his person in my care. This is the huge challenge of a faith response in these difficult political times.

And then, every once in a while, there is a treasured moment of intersection between radical acceptance and fighting for a vision. Here, the fire of the Spirit flames up in a moment of Gospel justice. For me, this happened this past year during the healthcare fight. We advocated for a vision where all have access to healthcare. We struggled to hold every member of Congress in our care. In the midst of this challenge, when lobbying Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), I met her as a person and held her in my care. I believe this “meeting” was an inspirited moment of light. I took in her person, perspective, and struggle.

As we face this new year, fatigued from all of the work of 2017, we are called to take another step into the challenge of Gospel justice. Together, we are called to care for members of Congress, the Trump administration, and their staffs. It is difficult, but love means we must hold all in our care. It is from this place of care that we can fight for a vision that moves us closer to the common good where no one is forgotten or disposable. We’re called to persistently seek the intersection of radical acceptance and fighting for a vision, where the Spirit flames up in our midst and a glimpse of Gospel justice is achieved.

This is work done only in community, where we all take turns having good days and bad. So in this very new year, let us commit to the profound spiritual practice of radical acceptance and fighting for a vision…in short “making fire.” Then we will remember the admonition of Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins in his poem “God’s Grandeur”:

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.