“45 murders already, 204 people have been shot in January of 2017. Something has to be done. I know we are living in a condition of hopelessness, but I’m here to tell you today that your — life — matters.”
That is the Rev. Joseph Atkins, Jr. preaching at the funeral of Precious Land, age 27, mother of four, one of 766 victims of homicide in the city of Chicago last year.
Not a bad prayer for a Monday morning, one week into a disastrous presidency. Let it be the message to which we commit ourselves this day, and every day, for every mother’s child, irrespective of race, nationality, or creed: Your life matters, is irreplaceable, is precious.
E pluribus unum: “from many, one,” the unofficial motto (behind “In God We Trust”) of the United States of America. For people of faith, the reverse is also true, if not primary: E unum pluribus: “from one, many.”
Each and all are precious in the sight of God, all made in the divine image. Our diversity springs from the overflowing creativity of the divine Artist, in whom we are a mosaic people. Unity is not uniformity, but a communion, a “commonwealth,” that celebrates our beautiful differences.
Almost sixty years ago, Thomas Merton suggested that the time had come to create “a new language of prayer,” a language “which transcends all our traditions, and comes out of the immediacy of love.” What is this “hidden ground of Love” that unites us? Says Merton:
It is wordless. It is beyond words, and it is beyond speech, and it is beyond concept. Not that we discover a new unity. We discover an older unity. My dear brothers and sisters, we are already one. But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are.
I would only add that the language of Love on this day per necessity includes the cry of lament and protest, rising from the conviction that something is deeply amiss when our leaders no longer aspire to a unity forged from the “many.”
They forfeit their authority who do not reverence and protect the very heart of our strength: E pluribus unum. If my life is precious in the sight of God, so is yours. No exceptions.