LEARNING BY HEART

A 3D render of closeup of the ten commandments etched in a stone tablet highlighting the sixth

I was preparing a series on “Celtic Spirituality” for an upcoming pilgrimage to Ireland that I am leading this September with Jennie Weeks and Liz Curtis Higgs. Then, Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York shattered my thinking. The horror and now the aftermath of these mass shooting events are unfathomable. They are almost too painful to think about. Almost.

We must think. For the sake of brevity, rather than recount all that has been written and talked about, reflect with me on the foundation of our faith, families, community and yes, civilization. There will no doubt be endless political debates about “gun violence” and laws that can be created to fix the problem, the plague, the epidemic that has infected our country. I get it.

In all humility, I believe the darkness that surrounds us is far deeper than a crazed eighteen-year-old. Some talking heads are finally using the word “evil” to describe the recent massacres. Finally.

The discussion, however, quickly pivots to public policy.  And yes, there is an emphasis on mental health as it should be. But as of now, there seems to be an omission in considering spiritual health. There is only silence. Talk of “evil” is necessary, important, and descriptive. But sisters and brothers, it is time to confront evil and bring a little light to the subject. Rather than get caught-up in kicking the proverbial can down the road, consider this a time, Kairos time, God’s time, to look inward as parents, grandparents, clergy and churches to humanize rather than dehumanize the killer. His name is Salvador Ramos. He was eighteen-years old. Look at his insanity as a teaching moment to guide, instill and mentor timeless values rather than dump more rhetoric and more fear into the digital minds and spirits of this next generation.

Take for example, the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”  We know how to kill. Where, how, when, why. we learned such behavior needs examination. Jesus was killed. He had first-hand experience on the Cross. He told us again and again to “be not anxious” like the Gentiles and all those religious people who had stones and rocks in their hands. He knew anxiety led to stress and worry. Soon fear—not faith—governs our behavior. With it comes anger. Anger left unchecked becomes violent and the rest is history. Read again the Sermon on the Mount.

Back to the Sixth Commandment and “Celtic Spirituality.” The Irish monks knew the Ten Commandments. They memorized the Law for a reason. It is a covenant from God, an agreement, a boundary, the proverbial red line. As civilized people we are not supposed to go there. Rome and much of western civilization fell to barbarians. The Irish monks did not want history to repeat itself. They “knew” intimately, inwardly, spiritually, what needed to be learned by heart so their prayers could inform, shape and guide their spirits and their behavior. So, they illuminated sacred texts and books to save civilization by encouraging the discipline of memorizing, feeding, and nurturing the mind, body and spirit for all humanity.

It is time. We need to learn by heart. It is time to memorize. Start with just one of God’s commandments. Begin with “thou shalt not kill.” Sit with your children, grandchildren, and whoever will listen and share with them this commandment. It is time we learn. And be assured, the devil can’t stand it—especially when we bring a little light to the subject. 

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Robin Jennings

Robin Jennings

Robin T. Jennings is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, and an accomplished author, speaker and teacher who inspires his audiences with Biblical guidance and spiritual insights into everyday life. Whether he has the opportunity to speak to churches, businesses or organizations, Robin’s lifetime of work in spiritual transformation and renewal connects individuals with timely topics such as the importance of community, hope, identity and the search for meaning which are inevitably woven into his message.

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