As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace– but now it is hidden from your eyes. Luke 19:41
Peace is elusive. It is especially elusive during this historical moment when peoples and movements and believe deep in their hearts that peace can only be attained by the taking of human life.
Hatred begets war and war begets hatred. We believe the illusion that peace is attained by the taking of human life and destroying homes, communities, cities and countries. This illusion is easily believed. For many, it is based upon the law of common sense: if you eliminate the person who is trying to kill you, then you believe that you can live in peace. When we begin to act upon these beliefs, then the temptation becomes to strike before “they” strike, whoever “they” are. The enemy is no longer considered human beings, no longer our brothers and sisters, no longer God’s children. They can be disposed of with any destructive measures at our disposal.
Rather than peace, this way of life is lived in fear.
The readings for today’s Mass are filled with images of violence, death and destruction. The first reading is from the Book of Maccabees and continues the story of the occupation of Israel by the rulers of the Hellenistic Empire established by Alexander the Great. After he had conquered Israel by the sword, he then began to conquer them by abolishing their identity: destroying the Temple and what it stood for, forcing public acceptance to a pagan power and pagan gods and stripping them of their cultural heritage. When push came to shove, some of the Hebrews became “zealous for the law and for those who stand by the covenant.” No matter how powerful the opposition was, how big their armies and how numerous their political leaders, the Hebrew people’s desire to live the covenant faithfully, was not dealt a death-blow.
The reaction of Mattathias to seeing the covenant violated is very similar to the reaction of Moises to seeing his Hebrew kinsmen being beaten: striking out in anger with the sword. Afterwards, both fled to the mountains, to escape the wrath of the oppressors.
Fidelity to God and God’s Love will always conquer the destructive ways of human beings. That’s the contradiction, the contradiction of the Cross. We pray at Mass: “Dying you destroyed our death, rising, you restored our life, Come Lord Jesus!”
Love is stronger than hate. Love will always bring new life. Faith is the lens by which we understand our relationship with our God, and the values of peace and forgiveness, preached by God’s Son, Jesus. Hope is the virtue that allows us to walk into a deadly situation, confident that God is there before us.
Jesus wept when he saw the people of his day believing that they had discovered the formula for staying alive, built upon the abandonment of their relationship with God. Little do we realize that this formula of an eye for two eyes, a death for five deaths is not a winning formula. Every nation that has made this formula their foundation stone has witness the destruction of their temples, not leaving one stone upon another.
The readings for today are inviting us to cast our lot with Jesus, the Prince of Peace! May the Peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be always in our hearts!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Mater Dolorosa Community in Sierra Madre, California.