There is one word, however, that I find in common in all of these situations. When the dross of my verbal inadequacy has been skimmed away, the purest constituent always remains steadfastly: Love.
It is love that has shaped the universe purposefully, that the last kisses of sunlight on a crisp fall evening bring warmth to my soul.
It is love that that finds its voice in her quiet songs as she gently sings her crying baby to sleep. In spite of exhaustion, fear, frustration, and every other thing that might cause her to give up, to give in, it is love that takes hold of her heart and keeps her present.
It is love that finds its hands in the kindness of strangers, in the selfless giving of one's self to another with no expectation of return.
But what of despair? A good virtual friend asked me the other day, how we stay "grateful in the face of much despair in our world." It seems so easy to speak of beauty and love from a place of priviledge, of relative peace, and of contentment, however in this world...
There is so much pain.
So much suffering.
So much loss.
No explanation can dull the pain of empty stomachs, thirsty mouths, diseased bodies.
No theological truth can blunt the trauma of suffering in body or mind, of suffering discrimination or exclusion.
No apologetic can blunt the trauma of the loss of loved ones or little ones, of dignity or innocence.
But there is love.
There is always love.
So little of it can do so much to dispell the deepest of darkness.
Love gives freely, out of plenty or of need, to soothe the pain of hunger and thirst. Love will not rest until distended bellies are full, until swollen tounges and cracked lips are soothed with life-giving water.
I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink...
Love seeks to make others whole, in body and mind. Love will not rest until that which is broken is made whole again, no matter the cost. Love will sit by you in your pain, be with you in your suffering, hurt with you, cry with you and never leave you to take care of yourself when you're at your most vulnerable.
I was sick, and you looked after me...
Love is radically inclusive. Love does not see the differences between us, but rather acknowledges our shared humanity and intrinsic value.
I was a stranger, and you invited me in...
Love will trod through rivers of shit and filth, to find those most vulnerable, those who hurt, who mourn, who are excluded, derided, hated, unloved, unclean and unseen and breaks through barriers of space and time, of class and age, of anger and apathy, of disillusionment and cynicism, of helplessness and hopelessness and will say stubbornly, decisively, unswervingly and indefatigably:
I will love you.
...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me...
No matter how long I have to wait for you to feel love, even if you never receive it from me, I will love you.
No matter how long it takes to take away your pain, even if it stays with you forever, I will love you.
Love is patient...
No matter how much your hurt causes you to lash out at me, I will never retaliate, I will simply continue to love you.
Love is kind...
No matter the difference in our situations, I will never look at you in any way other than as a person, deserving of love as anyone else, and I will simply love you.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud...
No matter how many times you turn me away, you take from me, or you tear me down, I will never respond in kind, I will simply love you.
No matter how it might inconvenience me, how it might disrupt my life, or how it might challenge my paradigm, I will simply love you.
[Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
I will fight for you. I will fight with you. I will never give up on you. I will always love you.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Such Love begets the beauty all around us and destroys despair.
Such Love, lived selflessly and applied universally, is the definition of the Kingdom.
Such Love, is the answer, the only answer there has ever been and the only answer there will ever be.
Love never fails. It will not fail. It cannot fail.
When we live Love, neither can we.