Homily: Pathway to Peace

 A145OT29_1_cf03_4cToday’s gospel about paying taxes to Caesar describes how hostile religious leaders of his day attempt to trap Jesus with trick questions. and the one next week, about the greatest commandment, indicates a growing conflict which will eventually result in Jesus’ execution under the Roman government.

  In this encounter with the Pharisees, we see that Jesus is involved in the realities of the political and religious situation of his nation and his people. He knows what’s going on and He’s not intimidated by power. He will continue “to teach the way of God in accordance with the truth” even though he knows the result will ultimately be his arrest and execution.

   At the end of Matthews gospel he concludes with the promise of the Lord, nowvindicated by His Resurrection: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me . . . Go, make disciples of all nations. . . . and behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age”. Jesus, in a new way, continues to be Emmanuel, “God with us.”

   To be a Christian disciple in our time and place means to make God present and to live as Jesus did in his time and place. This means that a disciple ought to know what’s really going on, without illusion. Although it may not happen in the extreme circumstances that it did to Jesus, it is hard to avoid the implication that a disciple of Jesus at some point will be faced with the moral necessity of speaking the truth, regardless of the consequences.

   A Peace group called Pax Christi was born 70 years ago of two people, one a bishop, the other a wife and mother, who advanced ideas that were jarringly dissonant in the context of that time.

   The second World War was at its height. The French bishop, both publicly protested the deportation of Jews from France and urged prayers for the enemy, Germany, The woman found herself thinking about praying for the enemy. Pondering the suffering of the German people, she wrote in her journal, “Jesus died for everyone. Nobody should be excluded from one’s prayer.”

   The two, sharing a vision of reconciliation, went on to form the organization called Pax Christi, the Peace of Christ, 70 years ago.. Germany and France live in peace today; Europe has achieved union and nonviolent means of settling differences. Pax Christi, however, has not gone out of business. The purveyors of violence are endlessly inventive. From child soldiers to the utter detachment of drones, from crude IEDs to sophisticated bombs, from oil wars to the formation of Islamic caliphates, those who use violent means no longer observe rules or boundaries.

   Perhaps the reality that most solidly links the decades of Pax Christi’s existence is the understanding that confronting violence is a complex and difficult undertaking and involves advancing ideas that are at odds with the prevailing thinking of the day.

   Pax Christi has grown increasingly global in its reach. Today’s peacemakers face daunting challenges.

   Pax Christi grows out of Catholic experience but, membership in it is not limited to Catholics. They are trying to work more and more for peace on all levels because of the importance that has in our world.

   No single overriding issue occupies the entire organization. But their overriding concern, often in the context of great violence, to work for peace nonviolently.

They try to bring the experience of Pax Christi members into the big policy debates. The result is to try to articulate a way that reflects their commitment to nonviolence. They are not pacifists, not across the board..

   One man said,” I encountered Pax Christi and work for nonviolence initially at a parish workshop decades ago. The workshop “blew the top off our parish,” he said. “I mean, literally, in one day, I walked out of that workshop and I was never the same again.” He has been involved in justice work ever since.

   Sometimes it means trying to put one foot on both sides of an impossible divide to understand how one can help build bridges in the quest for justice.

     In a world made complex by terrorists, non state militias and border-less wars, Pax Christi is pushing the church for a deeper reflection on nonviolence that helps us go beyond a very superficial understanding of what working for peace means, something more than what you do when you go to a peace demonstration and cross the line. Pax Christi is seeking an understanding of nonviolence that would incorporate a greater range of actions that its members are doing every day, actions that are nonviolent and all about building peace, not just opposing one thing or another.

   The assurance that Christ keeps his promise to be “God with us” ought to save us from being intimidated, With a little work on our part, we may even be able “to teach the way of God in accordance with the truth” with some of the poetic flair and wit of Christ. That special presence of Christ’s spirit in us could truly bring us to achieve peace non-violently. That would truly ‘render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s’. (Campion Gavaler, O.S.B.)

1 Comment

  1. Susan Lithgow

    Thu 16th Oct 2014 at 1:22 pm

    This homily is so timely for today! Why should I condemn certain Middle Eastern countries and groups (especially ISIS) for their violent actions? Jesus died for ALL of us, not just peaceful people. What about the civilians that are used as shields by ISIS? God’s grace needs to be with them also and even with the most violent of the people, today and always.

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