Some Things I Learned along the Way …
Reflections for the Practice of Interfaith Spirituality by Fr. Tom Bonacci
No One is Born Hating Another Person
Because of the Color of Their Skin, or Their Religion.
People Learn to Hate and if They Can Learn to Hate,
They Can Be Taught to Love,
for Love Comes More Naturally to the Human Heart than It’s Opposite.
What a blessing it is to be here with you. Once again I would like to paraphrase the words of a great Pastor who said, “We must never assume being in the presence of one another whenever we gather together.” With gratitude we gather tonight realizing our assembly is the practice of Interfaith love, mutuality and respect.
I am humbled to have been asked to share some thoughts with you tonight as we gather for the Annual Meeting of The Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County. I have decided, for what it’s worth, to share with you seven elements of spiritual practice that have touched my life over the years. I am more than grateful to the many teachers who have instructed me over my life time with their wisdom, words, teachings and fine example. The greatest of my teachers were and are those I meet in the streets and those who, oddly enough, came to me for help and guidance. We must always be students of one another.
- DISCOVER THE PAST ANEW
It is said that that the past is the past and there is nothing you can do about it. On the contrary, the past is a rich source of wisdom, knowledge and experience. The past changes as we grow and develop. How we see and judge the past is the result of the work we are willing to do today. There are many priceless pearls in the soil of our past history. We need only to search for the wisdom that must not stay buried in the rich soil of our history.
- OUR PAIN / HURT IN LIFE IS THE SOURCE OF COMPASSION
Nothing justifies abuse, pain or suffering. Yet, as people questing for our full and complete humanity, we “learn” to be compassionate in the light of the darkness that often touches our lives with hurt and pain. I know what it is like to be you as I remember and feel the sorrow that often breaks my heart.
- GRATITUDE IS, INDEED, THE ATTITUDE
As I remember the past, I not only recall the sorrow and difficulties of life, I remember the joys of people, places, things and events that contribute to my story. This joy is the source of gratitude not only for the memories but for all the people who are in my life today. I must not allow the memories of past hurts to nullify the joys of the present moment. I have learned to express gratitude especially in difficult times. I have even learned to give thanks for myself as I struggle to be faithful to the gifts I have been given and the gift I am called to be.
- REMEMBER THE CHILD YOU WERE
The Bible teaches a child will take us by the hand and lead us into salvation. I have learned to honor the child I was for that child had the courage to become the person I strive to be today. We must honor the children around us and protect them from all harm. If anyone of us ever experienced hardship as a child, we know what it’s like. Children don’t grow “out of It”, they grow in spite and in light of “it”. Honor the child you were if you would ever become the person you long to be.
- CLAIM YOUR DIGNITY
It is simply wonderful to be a human being. I can dance with the wolves, sing with the birds, swim in the waters and soar in the wind. I can fall in love. I can imagine and remember. I can shout for joy, cry out for justice and meditate in the quiet of my heart. As I claim my dignity, I rise up with all humanity seeking what is right, just, holy and beautiful. To be fully human is to be utterly humane and such is the delight of the Divine.
- DO NOT FEAR OTHERS
I have come to experience and believe I am a better me because I met you. The Interfaith, Intercultural, Interdependent, Interrelated World is not a dream of the future but the reality in which we live. Contrary to any powerful forces around us that would separate us from one another in fear, I have learned to delight in the different ways people celebrate and interpret what it means to be part of our global human family.
- BE NOT AFRAID TO DREAM
Dreams and visions are not flights of fantasy but the stuff of courage and the building blocks of peace born of justice. As I have learned to strive to love others (friend or foe), so I have learned to seek those who dream and see beyond the boundaries and limits of fear, hate and prejudice. Bless the dreamers whose hope is never compromised. Bless the visionaries who teach us to share our dreams in a World where people are often afraid to hope.
Finally, in the words of Gandhi, we must become what we want the World to be. I invite all of you here tonight to express gratitude to one another for striving to become what we know the World needs to be. Appreciate moments like this for we are the future our ancestors worked so hard to achieve.
Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.