Martha’s Jan. 30 Reflection

January 30th 2021

Today is Gandhi’s death day and I dipped into Robert Ellsberg’s All Saints, of which there are two copies in the Chapel library here.

Gandhi brought nonviolence as political struggle to the modern world–just in case we missed the message as presented to us by Jesus!

Clearly Christianity has not brought us salvation.

The true essence of faith can only be seen and practiced through loving kindness and service to others.

My co-defendant Clare sent me a quote from Dorothy Day that was shared through Pace e Bene: “What does God want me to do? And what am I capable of doing?”

(Can I stand against state and church? Is it pride, presumption – to think I have the spiritual capacity to use spiritual weapons in the face of the most gigantic tyranny the world has ever seen)?

Am I capable of enduring suffering, facing martyrdom?

And alone?

Again, the long loneliness to be faced.

Dear Granny, you break my heart. Danbury Federal Prison is now breaking my heart.

Am I strong enough? Am I alone?

As Dorothy also said, we can’t do this work alone. We have God and we have each other in community.

The power of the State is indeed a fearsome thing. What do Iraqis or Afghan or Libyan families have to say about this power reaching into their lives, crushing their lands?

My life here is safer than theirs: no bombs, a bed with sheets, running water, three meals a day.

I write in the early morning when it is quiet. The women try to sleep through their depression and sentences. They are here as sacrificial lambs. Their children wake up without their mothers.

Our government, businesses, and society are helpless in the face of human passion, arrogance, and addiction to the use of force.

Where is our collective gratitude for the achievement of the greatest material wealth in human history?

Where is our security, possessing the most powerful weapons on earth?

We wait in the pill line for the next dose of mass-minded thoughtlessness, chasing the American Dream to become part of the elite super class.

One of the first books to come in while I was on quarantine was Alfred Delp’s Prison Writings, saving me from hours with nothing to read. He writes that in our loneliness is sown the seed of trust. In the desert we collect our thoughts, replenishing ourselves for the ghastly struggle. The only intervention is God’s blessing upon us as we attempt to stay alert, listening to his word.

Today’s reading from Mark 4:35 – 41 resonates with all the themes before us. For bible study and further education in the faith, I read commentary in The Interpreter’s Bible, a twelve-volume series published by Abingdon Press.

“Let us go across to the other side.”

I love Jesus’ restlessness in being driven to save the sick and oppressed, to hearing the cry of the “untouched, the unreached.” We must break from the false bonds of our religion or culture that deny basic human needs while we live well in this world.

“And leaving the crowd,” – it is one thing to collect a great mass of people around you, but Christ practiced withdrawing from this scene, to retreat, pray, prepare. The ones who suffered, the small numbers in need of his hands were always on his mind.

To “go where no hosannas are heard, but where the shadow of a cross falls.”

To the bunkers where we hide the nuclear warheads, the shrines of missiles put up to idolize the use of force.

And then, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” In our smallness and lack of ability to see the unseen, we panic. But God never panics, as much as we try to project our fears and our rages onto him. “Peace, be still?!”

How difficult I find this, the Martha that I am. We have created nuclear self – annihilation. The anxiety of which seeps into every level of our being.

Was it “pride and presumption” that made me willing to walk onto a U.S. military base to protest these weapons?

Do I have the spiritual strength to face a mentality that our beloved attorney Bill Quigley captures in the words “it’s as if you walked into a used car lot” in the eyes of the court. You cut a lock on a gate. Damaged or stolen private property is the golden calf to be protected. Not whole cities in other people’s countries.

It is a tremendous effort, to calmly walk into this raging storm.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”

The Sea of Galilee, in its unique geography, could bring forth quicksand and violent storms, as the ancient fishermen had known. “Who then is this whom even the sun and moon obey?

Hebrews 11 is our other daily reading. “By faith he received power to generate,” – that is Abraham, with Sarah’s help, who fathers a child whose birth will lead to the springing forth of a whole nation. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” This is the source of the Plowshares Movement’s inspiration, along with Isaiah 2:4 – “They shall beat their swords into plowshares.”

The Kings Bay action, along with the hundred others, speak to the sacramentality of a vision that abolishes nuclear weapons. We are convinced that God opposes what humanity has done in creating these weapons.

We do see a future where these weapons will no longer exist.

Meanwhile, we are part of the U.S. Catholic Church that doesn’t raise a strong enough voice against the nuclear state. Yet in our baptism we have been given the power to generate, to bring forth God’s will for us, that of divine will and true freedom.

So how shall we walk as disciples of the Christ in the 21st century? From childhood, I have had a sense of being lonely in a big crowd. My pilgrimage in life is to understand what this means as I now sit in my small cubicle in federal prison.

My next door neighbor is from Vermont, like myself.

My “rosary group” are women of deep devotion and love of Mary.

I received a beautiful card from a woman who is now in prison with me.

God works in amazing ways.

I feel small, old, fragile, and vulnerable. I understand the betrayal of both state and church in our lives. We are clearly in dire straits. But God’s promise and blessings are still with us. We are entering the sheepfold through the gate (Jn. 10:1) and it is oh so narrow. The Shepherd’s voice is known to us if we have ears to hear.

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