I sometimes wonder how long we will associate Newtown or Aurora, Orlando or Charleston… with tragedy and heartbreak. The recent massacres along a running path in New York, or the concert venue in Las Vegas, add to this painful litany of grief for all of us. In face of such anguish and sorrow, many people of faith today are questioning: Is “sending our thoughts and prayer” enough as we confront such sadness? Does reflection upon POLICY CHANGE have a place in our prayer and at our worship?
Albert Nolan’s book, Hope in an Age of Despair, is provocative and challenging. In a chapter entitled “True Reconciliation” the author alludes to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers”, and how he tells his disciples, “Peace is my gift to you, peace is what I want to leave you.” Nolan also reminds us, however, that these statements must be understood in the context of the more remarkable saying in Luke and Matthew, “Do you suppose I have come to bring peace: No, I tell you, but rather, division.”
Nolan further states, “The history of the Jewish people in the bible is very much a history of conflict with the pagan nations. This conflict and confrontation are not merely encouraged by God; he actually commands the people again and again to oppose the tyranny, injustice, and immorality of the pagan nations. One of the greatest sins of the Jewish nation was their attempt to be reconciled with the nations who oppressed them.”
The commonly held view that Christians should always seek harmony and a middle way in every dispute assumes that tension and conflict are worse evils than injustice and oppression. That is a false supposition.
The readings from Maccabees and reflections on “end times” from the Gospels these past many days are a keen reminder that we are at the end of the liturgical year once again. So, Antiochus gets his comeuppance — he dies in a foreign land after hearing of the successful revolt in Judah. And Jesus offers no patience with the absurdity of the Sadducees’ inquiry; he does not lower himself to the level of his questioners, but picks up the question in a different way.
How is God calling me to derail some of the ludicrousness in our worlds of entertainment and politics today? How can we move deeper into what is truly significant? As a follower of Jesus, do I have the courage to transform and be transformed?
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.