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O God of grace and peace,
You hear the cries of the distraught. You tend the hearts of the grieving. We offer up our prayers to you once again, after hearing of yet more violence and strife. Lahore, Baghdad, Aden, Maiduguri, Istanbul, Brussels, Baidoa, Paris, Ankara.
We do not possess words powerful enough to express the anguish we feel. The bodies of our sisters and brothers, cast upon the altar of death, form a mountain of sorrow that threatens to blot out the sun. The world feels unstable, its hospitality, which we are always tempted to take for granted, seems in times like these an illusion at best, and a cruel joke at worst.
The cries of widows and orphans stop up our ears, so that we cannot discern a word from you. We long to hear the calm assurance of your voice in times like these. But perhaps even more, we long to hear the thunder of your righteous anger, lifted as a battle cry against the night.
But we’ve just come through Holy Week, so we see how you do battle against the evil intentions of humanity. You confront the world’s violence not with armies, but with a broken man who wields nothing more deadly than his willingness to die rather than return that violence. You conquer death by transforming death into life.
But we confess that your commitment to reconciling enemies too often leaves us feeling unsatisfied. We yearn to see your justice meted out against those who would steal the lives of children. Our hearts burn within us as we desire to witness a holy vengeance that promises the same kind of pain to the wicked as they have visited upon the innocent. On Easter we speak of our commitment to love and forgiveness. But in the face of the most profound darkness, our hearts betray us, and we long for a justice that renders our pain intelligible as part of a greater narrative of retribution.
And yet, we also must acknowledge our own participation in a world that seems too eager to devour itself. We allow those who would lead us to befoul the public discourse with racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and homophobia, giving voice to our darkest impulses. Forgive us for the secret hatreds and fears they articulate. Grant us the courage to stand against the destructive nature of our lower selves, which we see embodied in the venality of our politicians.
Your way of embracing the world is seldom our own. You resist our pleas for a solution that rights all wrongs. You withstand our entreaties for a divine magic we can control.
Therefore, offer comfort to the afflicted. Bless the prayers of the stricken and despairing. Let those who weep feel the embracing arms of your consolation.
And give us strength to live with integrity in a broken world, to face the violent fears that are so easily stoked within us, to challenge the hatred and bigotry that beckons us to view our sisters and brothers as “other.” Give us grace to see our enemies through your eyes. Allow us to be agents of healing and peace, that a frightened world might see you in us, and that we might live faithfully, even in the absence of our own understanding.
This is our prayer, O lover of us all. Amen.
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