Two countries in crisis: A time for confession and prayer

By Rev. Linda Hanna Walling, Faithful Reform in Health Care

The rumble of a trembling earth… the rush of swirling winds… the surge of a tsunamic ocean… in a matter of seconds we fall victim to our vulnerabilities and to forces totally beyond our control.  In a few short moments life is changed forever.  And in the aftermath, our common humanity and the deep ties that bind us to one another are exposed.  The capacity for compassion that lies within all of us emerges and calls us to our better selves.

Whose heart doesn’t break watching a Haitian man standing outside of his collapsed home, unable to respond to the cries of his family trapped under the rubble, still waiting even after their pleas are heard no more? Who doesn’t shed tears for a mother carrying her dead child through the streets for want of a final resting place? Who doesn’t bow in a moment of silence upon hearing of the Americans who have died while ministering on our behalf in the midst of Haiti’s poverty?

In the midst of all of this, I had a nagging sense that I couldn’t just keep on going as if nothing was wrong. Somehow, sending an email alert promoting calls to Congress about health care reform just needed to take a back seat to other needs — both yours and mine. Instead, I went out and purchased the items for Church World Service hygiene and baby care kits to kick off a collection in my own congregation.  But it still didn’t address my uneasiness.

And then it dawned on me. My connection to the Faithful Reform in Health Care coalition is grounded in the affirmation that the outpouring of concern, supplies, and money for Haitians demonstrates that we as a nation do have the immense capacity to act with compassion, to share our abundant resources, and to do the right thing.  In fact, it is believing in that capacity that has driven our mission. It is what has made our work unique among other groups.  It is what has helped us understand that our calling is so much broader than a particular political agenda or getting a bill passed in Congress.  It is about transforming hearts and minds and shaping public conscience around shared faith-inspired values that demand action on behalf of the common good.

Perhaps confession is in order over the fact that we wait for an earthquake or hurricane or tsunami to demonstrate the goodness that lies within us as individuals and as a country.  And perhaps it is time to confess our motives in withholding such a generosity of spirit when it comes to shaping our national life together.  Maybe, just maybe, in that confession we can discern how the values of our hearts can inform our legislative deliberations and help shape a vision for our future.

We have launched our Interfaith Virtual Vigil of Prayer, Hope, and Action for the final weeks of our deliberations about health care reform. I propose that for these difficult times we tweak the words and the purpose to create a chain of prayer and action that lifts up life and health and hope for our whole human family.  Please join me in prayer in these moments and in the coming weeks.

In the presence of all that is holy within and around us, and in the sacred bonds of our common humanity, we give thanks for the life that we share and for our calling to care for each other. We remember our sisters and brothers who are suffering in Haiti — and in all places where mere existence is a profound struggle.  We confess that we have fallen short in caring for every member of our human family, and that in spite of our abundant resources we have failed to ensure that all may receive what they need for the life that is intended for every person.

So we pray for forgiveness… for hearts that have been slow to feel another’s pain… for hands that have been still when a loving touch was needed… and for voices that have remained silent while millions suffer for lack of basic needs like shelter, clothing, food, and health care. May the valleys and the burdens of hunger, homelessness, suffering, sickness and disease be conquered as we raise our voices of hope and faith to the simple, moral, and merciful imperative of taking care of one another. Amen.*

May our prayers be transforming in these difficult days.

*Adapted from words prayed in recent months in services of remembrance and in vigils for health care reform.

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