Thursday, August 03, 2006

Swimming Lesson

I am a regular swimmer, and I have been regularly swimming for 19 years. Moving through water challenges on-land intuition. If moving faster on land covers more distance, one would think to do likewise in water. However, water offers greater resistance than air. To cover more distance in water one needs to move gently in order to diminish the resistance water exerts. Adding other techniques for efficiency combine with a smooth stroke to increase distance.

Yesterday, I focused on one thing during each phase of my swim: to be more horizontal; to reach longer each stroke; and to breathe more deeply. I continue to learn to breathe more deeply. The more I breathe deeply, the more I am able to execute a smoother, longer stroke. Breathing is only one technique, and very important.

Catching up on reading, my experience in the pool helped me appreciate better a metaphor U.S. Bishop Wenski used in a 27 July interview with John Allen Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter. Speaking for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [USCCB], Bishop Wenski decried violence as an attempt to acheive peace between Hezbollah and Israel. The bishop said that

"the more people who are killed, the more the fighting escalates, the more infrastructure is destroyed, the more difficult it becomes for all sides to find common ground to negotiate. That’s why the cease-fire is so important. It would allow us to take a deep breath [my emphasis], to let reason direct policy rather than reactions of anger to hurts old or new. The escalation of violence will not bring us closer to a resolution which is just, but [a cease-fire] will take a lot of moral courage."

No deep breaths exist these days in Lebanon and Israel (not to mention Iraq, Afghanistan and forgotten other-theaters of violence, such as Sri Lanka, Darfur and Colombia) only painful sighs, contorting faces and hearts. The loud sound of a painful sigh masks that it is shallow compared to deep, relaxed breathing.

Both violent reaction as well as inaction which condones violence do not allow "reason to direct policy." The USCCB stands united with Pope Benedict XVI and his call for an immediate cease-fire in the Hezbollah-Israel conflict embroiling Lebanon and the cause of the death of innocents in both Lebanon and Israel. The result is an uncomfortable division of opinion on this matter between Catholic leaders and the U.S. and other like-minded governments.

Grace is not incompatible with discomfort. I see a grace in this distance of opinion: it puts in a tighter orbit around Jesus and his good news all who are willing to breathe deeply and respond in nonviolent ways--in thought, word, mind, heart, as well as action.

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