Two friends phoned over the past few days and their words have given me pause.
The first told me she cannot handle watching the news anyone more because such intense emotions of discouragement and fear are triggered.
The second friend told me he keeps remembering the Holocaust and with the slaughtering of the innocents in the shooting down of the Malaysian jetliner, the mounting toll of killed and wounded in Gaza, and Israel, finds himself wondering where God is.
How easily when confronted with the incomprehensible extent of our human capacity of evil hatred and violence we blithely ignore these are human actions and wonder where God is, after all, it IS His fault we human beings have freedom.
Irrespective of which side may objectively, in any conflict, be more or less the aggrieved party, both sides steadfastly maintain it is the other side who is the real perpetrator of violence.
Of course, in the end historians maintain it is the victor who writes history.
Certainly the victors tried that in the Paris post WWI peace conference.
How’s that been working out do you think?
Where is God?
The Hamas Islamists, and their ilk throughout the world, even while committing atrocities on a scale not seen since the Nazi or the Pol Pot regime, can be heard screaming that God is great – as if slaughtering His children could ever call down anything other than His anger – yet they are calling upon the same God as their Israeli opponents, as the Christians Islamists murder on a daily basis.
During the American civil war both President Lincoln and General Robert E. Lee sincerely believed they were God’s instruments and send hundreds of thousands of men and boys into battle as canon fodder – most of whom on both sides were practicing Christians, Protestants and Catholics alike.
Perhaps it can be argued that in the Old Testament God seemed to use human beings to achieve His purposes through battle, even at times appeared to directly intervene so ‘His” side would win.
This says more about the uninformed primitiveness of our ancestors than anything else.
Certainly once God entered human history through His Incarnation, life, death, resurrection, teaching us how to authentically live as children of the Father, waging war in the name of God is a non-starter.
True, we human beings are endowed by God with free will, free to use this freedom to choose love or hate, forgiveness or vengeance, life or death, war or peace.
If we choose love we may be hated, rejected, persecuted; if we choose forgiveness we may be mocked, held hostage, enslaved; if we choose life we will be labeled anti-choice but we will stand before Him on the awesome day of judgement with our hands blood free.
If like my one friend the news discourages and frightens, if like my other friend the extent of violence and hatred tears at faith in a loving God likely it is because, or rather given what is happening across the world it seems to me, God simply has withdrawn for a time, left us to our own devices in our freedom.
I suspect He is waiting to see if, when we tire of the sounds of exploding ordnance and the screams of our brothers and sisters drowning in their own blood, we will once again be still, listen, hear Him knocking at the door of our being, will bid Him enter, will sit with Him, listen and follow and live out what He teaches us.
On the bus the other day the man sitting next to me watched a group of women and children, obvious with their mode of dress Muslim, and he complained at length about all these damn immigrants, spoken with vitriolic hatred.
One little cancer cell is not too dangerous but if it splits in two, or joins with another one, little by little cancer can spread and if not checked kill the human being, the person who body is infected.
One person with such hatred as that man on the bus when they find others of like mind begin to infect the whole body of a nation with xenophobia and disordered politicians can use this to insight disorder in a nation or between nations and the hatred spins out of control and innocent people flying overhead are shot down, or people just seeking to live out their daily lives are pounded by thousands of rockets fired by haters whose violence ends up subjecting their brothers and sisters, those who do not hate, do not fire rockets, to the terrible retribution which follows.
In his book, LIFE OF CHRIST, Ven. Sheen, commenting on the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes [Mt. 5], stresses that if anyone seeks to put the Beatitudes into practice that person will: “…draw down upon himself the wrath of the world…” because “…One way to make enemies is to challenge the spirit of the world.”
Comingled with hatred always there is greed: greed as lust for vengeance, land, power, control, ethnic or religious dominance, etc., with, in the end, the greedy in their lustful hatred becoming so enmeshed in what so quickly spirals out of control, develops a momentum of its own [ the First World War is a classic example of all the preceding] will find themselves in terms of chronological/historical time, trapped in a quagmire of unending violence and even if the violence should cease the poison of suspicion will spread until there is another conflict – and – in terms of eschatological time, that is Kairos, the Lord’s time, will find themselves more suddenly than expected before His awesome judgement seat, the blood of their brothers and sisters dripping from their souls and hearts, pooling at their feet, crying out to the Lord for justice.
Jesus, of the meek and humble Heart, throughout the Sermon on the Mount shows us clearly the alternative, reveals in the Beatitudes what is true courage, true humanity, true love, true life.
He calls us to the courageous beatitude of poverty of spirit, exemplified in that selflessness which seeks not more for me but generously gives to the hungry, the naked, the thirsty, the sick, the lonely, the stranger, the imprisoned – always having right order: God first, then my brother and sister and I am third.
Be it the one on one abuse of a family member or an act of violent crime such as purse snatching, drunk driving, bank robbing, bullying etc., or those larger hate-filled acts of violence from 9/11 to the actions of Boko Haram, ISIS, Hamas, Ukrainian rebels – rivers of the blood of our brothers and sisters soak the earth carrying the voices of our brothers and sisters crying out to God.
Jesus beatifies such pain and mourning, assuring comfort, the comfort only He can give, His peace in this life, His eternal embrace in the next.
Jesus stresses that not might but meekness ultimately, beatifically will triumph and such persons will inherit the earth; blessed, sacred fulfillment as persons comes not to extremist haters and terrorists but to those children of God who both hunger for and work for authentic righteousness which is the building of a peace-filled civilization of love through living out the Gospel of Life.
Each Beatitude is not only a promise of what the kingdom of heaven holds for us but of how reality can be, should be, the lived experience of life on earth within the human family.
The catastrophe, perhaps unimaginable but tangible already, is coming because we have chosen to drown in hatred and blood and the rivers are raging, the flood is spreading, the cold darkness is engulfing the earth.
Time is short.
Again from Ven. Sheen: “The Sermon on the Mount is so much at variance with all that our world holds dear that the world will crucify anyone who tries to live up to its values. Because Christ preached them, He had to die. Calvary was the price He paid for the Sermon on the Mount.”
How urgent it is we Christians begin to truly live the Gospel with our lives without compromise as living icons of Christ, of the Gospel of Life, icons of hope, peace, love.