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A Meditation On Jesus (1969)
By Daniel Berrigan, SJ
9 May 1921 - 30 April 2016
1. The gospel of Jesus is spoken in a world
intoxicated with death
mesmerized by death
convinced of the necessary rule of death
acceding to the omnipresence of death
2. And Jesus says No
to this omnivorous power.
So his word makes the slight
all but imperceptible difference
(which is finally the only difference).
A good man, himself powerless,
stands at the side of powerless men
and says to death No
for them for himself.
3. Can any of you
place before you a single child, smiling
squirming in your arms; and say
The death of this child is a fact of modern war; I accede
to that death. I regret it of course
but what can one do? We have to destroy
in order to save; villages, women, children,
The system traps us all...
4. The system; horrible word! Can the system
trap the conscience of a free man?
Traps are for animals; freedom is for men.
I cannot speak for you
but I will not wait upon Caesar
to instruct me in God's word.
I am a man. I can read:
If a man will save his life, let him lose it.
I say to you love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you.
Whatever you do to the least of these
my brothers, you do to me.
Blessed are you who suffer persecution
for justice's sake.
5. Jesus had nothing to say to "systems",
except to deny their power over him.
He said in effect, violence stops here (pointing to his body)
He said in effect, it is better to die for others
than to live (live?) in a trap.
6. Be concrete, be immediate!
Imagine the world!
If you embrace a child, can you consent
to the death of a child? each human face
leads you (follow!) to every human face.
7. I can only tell you what I believe.
I believe I cannot be saved by foreign policies.
I cannot be saved by sexual revolutions.
I cannot be saved by the gross national product.
I cannot be save by nuclear deterrents.
I cannot be saved by aldermen, priests, artists,
plumbers, city planners, social engineers,
nor by the Vatican,
nor by the World Buddhist Association
nor by Hitler nor by Joan of Arc
nor by angels and archangels,
nor by powers and dominations
8. I can be saved only by Jesus Christ.
9. Take this book with you, please
into the midst of children old men and women
the poor, the defeated, the innocent.
Carry it about with you, let it speak
wherever men struggle, suffer, abandon hope,
Let the book happen to you.
It has no other reason for being,
very like yourself
first spoke the words of these pages,
"a man acquainted with grief,
like us in everything, save sin alone."
He is as near to you/ as your next drawn breath.
10. I do not know
where my life leads.
Do you know where your life leads?
The next note is not struck.
The hands (foul, cleansed) hover
over the instrument.
My friends ask me: After jail, what?
You too (my friends) start awake at midnight,
question the silent lover beside,
the dream-wrapped child;
where? what next?
11. Lover, child, in the immense dignity of birth or death refuse an answer.
There is no answer.
The genius of the gospel is in the name of man
to refuse an answer.
We had best go forward/ as those in love go
Exulting in the breadth of the swath love opens
the sound of a scythe at harvest
the soundlessness of children sleeping a universe
of unanswerable grandeur!
12. If we have awakened to the world
it is probable that our salvation is near.
If we abide in love
we shall be greatly loved.
13. I believe that twelve just men, believing
against all evidence,
may stir the soil or sea
with toilers' hands, bring up intact
something flowerlike, something —
that direct and life-giving man
waits on you.
The world waits on you.
The two statements
are quite simply verified.
Close then open your eyes.