"In Dante's 14th-century epic poem "Inferno," he embarks on a journey through hell guided by the Roman poet Virgil. At one point in his descent, he writes "Midway along the journey of our life I woke to find myself in a dark wood. ... the wood of wilderness, savage and stubborn." Reflecting on this past year in Central Florida as well as the United States, his words resonate in all of us. Collectively, it feels as if we have awakened in a dark wilderness, a place of hatred and inexplicable violence, a place of penetrating grief and profound sadness, a place of political bombast and racial division, a place that hardly reflects the "peace on Earth, good will towards all" message so commonly heard this time of year."
"While it may seem more out of reach than ever, peace is still what every human heart yearns for, peace that is not merely the "absence of war." We yearn for the Hebrew concept of shalom, a word which means "the overall well-being of a people or community; unity, harmony, wholeness."
"Standing in the dark abyss of grief during the Pulse remembrance gathering just weeks ago, the desire for shalom seemed to be the unspoken longing of those gathered. Every heart seemed to beat with the question, "Will we ever be whole again?"
This article originally appeared as a guest column in The Orlando Sentinel.