Lent, Peace Spirituality

Lent 2019: Reflection for Palm/Passion Sunday – Where there is friendship and love, there is God

by Rev. Paul Lansu
Senior Policy Advisor, Pax Christi International

[Ed. Note: This is the seventh in a series of reflections throughout Lent from Rev. Paul Lansu. Reflections on the Sunday readings will be posted each week on the Friday before the Sunday which the reflection references. Holy Day reflections will be posted the day before the actual Holy Day. See all of these reflections and other resources at this link.]

Lk 19:28-40 | Is 50:4-7 | Ps 22 (21) | Phil 2:6-11 | Lk 22:14-23:56

We are at the beginning of Christianity’s most impressive week. One in every three people in the world calls him/herself a Christian. To be a part of this family means to stand in a two-thousand year tradition that has left many marks on society — bad as well as good. For centuries, the liturgy of Holy Week has been directed to renewing faith, deepening love and awakening hope.

Serving love

Jesus is welcomed today like a king. He makes his happy entry into Jerusalem. The happy entry gives way to the horrible agony: the Calvary trip to Golgotha, the way of the Cross. Jesus chooses a kingdom of love and not of power. He is a Servant King. We compare the political, economic and other driving forces of our societies to a different kingdom, one based on another set of values, one with a constitution that casts the mighty from their thrones, feeds the hungry, places the poor in the front seat and heals the broken.

Processions are forms of protest

Processions of all shapes, sizes and motivations are part of our human culture. No protest is complete without a procession. Processions may be simple and casual but even these can be very significant, telling what is in the heart of a people. Many members of Pax Christi and other justice and peace groups regularly come together to raise many forms of injustice in silent protest, through processions and silent walks. They are a visual expression of indignation. They are always cries for change and improvement for people and their environment.

In many parts of the world, Passion Plays and processions are being held during Holy Week. In spite of questioning God’s existence or of life after death, in spite of all the recent press about child abuse by religious, the story of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection continues to move the hearts of hundreds of millions around the world. The unique story of Christ belongs not only to one denomination or Christian tradition but belongs to the whole of humankind. Churches and denominations are merely the instruments pointing towards Christ.

The story about an innocent victim being subjected to a mock trial resonates because it still happens today. We still cover up the truth, defend our own interests, and deny compensation, lying and cheating. We still discriminate against people, tell half-truths, live by corruption, let jealousy or rivalry stand in the way. You name it, it happens. Human rights are violated in many situations often involving the poor and the innocent. Recent decades have brought us face-to-face with accounts and pictures of unbounded human cruelty and suffering. The savagery of war is rivaled only by the violence of crime in a spiral of destruction that endangers our world.

The core of the Passion story is not to highlight the cruelty of human beings, severe though it be, but rather to recall in faith who suffered and why Jesus went through it all, not only freely but also with a sense of genuine fulfillment.

Identification with actors in the story

We relate to the Passion story because we can identify with the different actors in it:

  1. Peter: He struggled with his loyalty. Under pressure, many of us find it difficult to choose what is best. Whose interests do we serve? What will be the consequences of our actions? We struggle with values and norms, the choice between a quick fix and escape, as opposed to the long, difficult road of honesty and solidarity.
  2. Look at the role of women in the Passion. We recognise mothers who have lost their children because of violence. They constantly appeal for truth or alternative ways to resolve conflict. The dedication of women in the midst of conflict demonstrates the existence of the healing and loving hands shown for the sick, the accused or refugees, as well as to the rejected.
  3. The Passion also highlights the role of the military, those who had to follow orders they themselves did not believe in. The soldiers came to the conclusion that their violence could lead to greater chaos rather than peace, because they knew that a good and innocent man was being brought to an undeserved end.
  4. We note the actions of the political leaders. They worried about who held the highest rank in the hierarchy. If Jesus claimed to be King, he was dangerous to their “throne”. The very thought of leadership from a different set of values was, and still is, seen as a threat, rather than an opportunity for change and self-evaluation.
  5. Many of us like the environmental aspect of the story. The whole of creation is involved, from the Garden of Olives to sour grapes, from the donkey to a rooster and a lamb. Just as with the birth of Christ, the story about his suffering and death has cosmic proportions; everything is affected by the choice between the destruction or the restoration of life. We may ruin a few palm trees on Palm Sunday, but with the oil from the branches we anoint ourselves for the task of improving the global quality of life.

The Passion story is about you and me

Of course, there is the Suffering Servant himself. Like all innocent victims, he doesn’t say much in the longest gospel reading of the year. At this stage in his life he acts rather than speaks. His silent witness becomes a universal language understood by all cultures and races at all times and places.

The Passion story is about you and me. We are called to change things for the better, to right an injustice, to protect the defenceless, to welcome the stranger, to challenge the established, to build peace. We need to end the globalisation of indifference which gives rise to a culture of exclusion in which the poor, marginalised and vulnerable are denied their rights, as well as the opportunities and resources that are available to other members of society. Words are good but that is not enough! Words alone will not produce change. To make change happen, we have to give of ourselves. Action is needed.

The Cross is part of the search for authenticity and credibility. From that Cross we learn about concepts like commitment, reliability, solidarity and trust. In biblical terms this is called Passion; in today’s terms, we call it love. When there is love, there is life worth living.

Ubi caritas et amor. Deus ibi est.
Where charity and love are, God is there.

The Passion story invites us to begin Holy Week as an annual retreat for all Christians. We go back to the roots of our faith, and from these roots, we plant a life-giving tree.

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Photo credit: Splatter Tree

 

Lent, Peace Spirituality

Lent 2019: Reflection for Third Sunday of Lent – Second breath, a call to take responsibility

by Rev. Paul Lansu
Senior Policy Advisor, Pax Christi International

[Ed. Note: This is the fourth in a series of reflections throughout Lent from Rev. Paul Lansu. Reflections on the Sunday readings will be posted each week on the Friday before the Sunday which the reflection references. Holy Day reflections will be posted the day before the actual Holy Day. See all of these reflections and other resources at this link.]

Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15 | Ps 103 (102) | I Cor 10:1-6, 10-12 | Lk 13:1-9

Calling out in the desert. We all know that feeling. No one hears; no one listens. When we do get a response, we find a second breath. With that second breath, we can call again, re-engage and re-believe. We hear that Moses finds a second breath after God calls him from the burning bush. In addition, we read that the vinedresser finds a second breath and commits himself to the up-to-now barren fig tree.

Members of justice and peace groups and social organisations need a long-term commitment, a second breath, to engage themselves permanently. A second breath that God always gives.

In everything that happens, we consistently look for the responsibility of others and we look less critically at our own share. If we want to build a better, peaceful, more just future, then each of us must take responsibility. Making mistakes is very human. You can correct errors (or have them repaired). But not taking responsibility or even turning the blame on to someone else is bad and a shame.

Moses cannot but accept his responsibility. He knows that his people live in slavery in Egypt; it does not let him go. In the burning bush, he hears the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: “I have seen the misery of my people. I know their suffering. I come to liberate my people.” Moses calls for the name of this God. But this is a God who cannot be captured in words and pictures. Moses must do with: “I am who I am.”

The gospel does not evade responsibility. Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree, a metaphor for the city of Jerusalem. The fig tree produces no fruits; Jerusalem is corrupt, playing the game of the powerful nations around it and not a city of peace. Jesus is strict, pointing out the bad situation, but leaves an opening for a new beginning. This way the fig tree gets a second chance and Jerusalem a second breath.

Every Sunday of this Lenten time, the theme of the Exodus returns, a symbol of every road that leads from slavery to liberation, from injustice to justice, from violence to nonviolence. The temptations are not lacking on this route. In spite of God’s constant care, the Israelites succumb and die in the desert. Christians are also not immune to the dangers of evil. Contemporary forms of evil are poverty, hunger, exclusion, violence, underdevelopment, discrimination, racism and more.

Christians should continuously inspire and encourage each other to safeguard human dignity, both in human growth and in human suffering and dying. Reciprocal love shall be humanity’s culture.

Read the signs of the time

This requires continuous nourishment and ‘resourcing’, looking for and giving purpose from a Biblical tradition. The gospel asks us to regularly test and explain the signs of the time. What is currently taking place in the world and what is its deeper meaning? Forever daring to ask the question: what is our society today like and what must be done to communally turn all people in this society into better people?

The never-ending effort of people to live together with others and to form a true society means that one person’s good life contributes to someone else’s good life too. Helping one another is essential to this process. Among other things, it is about care, well-being, charity, compassion, solidarity and assistance toward each other.

Sometimes it goes beyond that and one has the duty to help people in need, even thos ‘unknown people’ who are in need. This then often leads to dilemmas: where lie the boundaries of human or individual responsibility and where begins the state’s responsibility? Dilemmas are not negative or threatening; rather they make life interesting.

Volunteer work is like yeast in the dough

Pax Christi International is essentially a peace movement of volunteers. The “acte gratuity” may be understood as an essential component in social commitment soliciting reciprocity, commitment, generosity and responsibility. Peace workers always need a second breath. After all peace work is an unfinished agenda, unfortunately enough. Their persuasion and taking responsibility make them agents of change — an effort in line with the Biblical image of “yeast in the dough.”

Working for justice and peace is done in the understanding that the human being is not a solitary being but a social being and that his or her integral development primarily needs relations to fulfill his or her destiny.

Building peace is not solely something done for and through ‘professionals’. Working on peace is everyone’s responsibility. Peace is every person’s calling. That is why we ask ‘all people of good will’ to cooperate. The communal frame is the need for a peaceful and just life. Every person and population group has the right to peace and security. I am sure, convinced, that I will only feel safe and well when others share that feeling. Christian peace work offers a platform where people can meet and communicate and, importantly, eliminate potential disagreements.

It is a virtue to bring people together. A good society is characterised by a fruitful tension between space for difference and the search for what we hold in common. The political community is thus at the service of the human community. That requires social pluralism, so a diversity of goods can be shown to its full advantage.

The justice and peace sector not only needs many professionals but also needs many who continue to live from a necessary urgency to seek and give meaning in life.

Again, we are invited to live through this Lenten season of faith, reconciliation, generosity and service, culminating in the Easter mystery. This season is meant to bear fruit in our lives.

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Photo credit: http://www.techofheart.co/2008/01/what-burning-bush-spoke-so-spoke-mansur.html
Lent, Peace Spirituality

Lent 2019: Reflection for Second Sunday of Lent – Time for making space in silence

by Rev. Paul Lansu
Senior Policy Advisor, Pax Christi International

[Ed. Note: This is the third in a series of reflections throughout Lent from Rev. Paul Lansu. Reflections on the Sunday readings will be posted each week on the Friday before the Sunday which the reflection references. Holy Day reflections will be posted the day before the actual Holy Day. See all of these reflections and other resources at this link.]

Gen 15:5 –18 | Ps 27 (26) | Phil 3:17 – 4:1 | Lk 9:28 – 36

How can silence be a calling? Abraham experiences it in his sleep. In addition, Jesus practises silence during prayer. A silent protest may sound louder than shouts and screams. The silence after the peace agreements in countries such as Guatemala or Colombia cries out over injustice and negligence. What call do we hear in silence? Is it the call to repentance? The call for engagement and commitment can sound strong. Do we listen to the cry we hear from silence or not?

The gospel of today shows us Jesus as a signpost. He takes us up the mountain. He invites us to pray. That clearly shows where he lives from. That is from his connection with God. His face starts to shine. It is a “mountaintop” moment for him. According to tradition, Mount Tabor is the mountain of the transformation.

Heaven and earth meet at the top

Biblically, a mountain is the place where heaven and earth meet. A mountain is always the place to meet God. On top of that mountain, Jesus also meets two other significant figures from the history of God with the people: Moses and Elijah. Those are testimonials in faith. Two shining examples. Through them Jesus may be guided in his mission. As a second Moses, he wanted to free the children of Israel from the land of their fears; as a second Elijah, he called them away from their idols, to the true religion and the true human service: love God and love your neighbour. Just like we can give light to each other on our way.

The top of a mountain is not a holiday resort

However, mountaintop moments rarely last long, as it is also today. It is no permanent residence on top of the mountain. Peter and his companions get to hear that when they want to build three tents. Life demands that we have to go down the mountain again, into the valley, to share the life of the people in its true form. That life is often raw and hard. We sometimes experience it ourselves.

Jesus is also waiting for another mountain. That is Mount Golgotha, that of the cross and of the totality of God’s abandonment. On his way there, Jesus will show solidarity with the innumerable many who ask in desperate suffering where God remains and when there will finally be justice for them.

“I have been to the mountaintop,” Martin Luther King, Jr said. With that vision in mind, he managed to hold himself in valleys of deep darkness. We must remain faithful to our calling on earth. We keep the vision on the mountaintop in mind so that we can trust that in our valleys of darkness nothing can separate us from God’s love.

Every person is equal and entitled to solidarity, giving and receiving

Lent helps us to focus on two things. Firstly, it emphasises that everything in life is fragile, for suffering and death are both a part of life. Scripture says that we should treat each other as equals, use our time and talents well and not just rely on our own strength in life but make some space for God too.

Secondly, Lent tells us that, because we are all vulnerable in different ways, we should practise solidarity. If we feel down, then faith in the goodness and meaning of life can be restored when someone helps us back on our feet again. When we are in a position to help, then we should do so, for it is a luxury and a privilege to be the helper. Who knows what tomorrow may bring — we may then be the ones needing help. People of faith are problem solvers!

It is true that solidarity has been deeply impacted by individualism and materialism. We are glad to see that the many services and the strong grassroots social presence touching all layers of society – yet with an option for the poor, the marginalised and the suffering – are a stabilising asset for all communities and, politically speaking, for democracy. Nobody can be left behind.

Serving the common good

Living in solidarity entails striving for the common good, or the ‘bonum commune’, together. Society should develop in harmony with every person and his/her environment, and to everybody’s content. Solidarity calls for tangible acts. It is a time for action. Every person deserves help, especially in situations of war or other needs, such as people on the run.

As a human being, one inevitably lives in the company of others, both locally and globally. Society belongs to everyone and people thus live in a participatory manner. The social fabric in which people live has both local and global characteristics. That social fabric should be, or is, the medium for life in peace and harmony with other people and our surroundings.

Let silence speak in circles of solidarity

Jesus, a vulnerable human being, is in solidarity with our need, the one in whom God’s face is here as a promise, a hope of life. That may be called a Tabor experience. It is a foretaste at Easter, on our passage from death to life. I wish you a Tabor experience occasionally, one in which we may experience God’s light occasionally in our lives. This is possible if we are guided by God’s word as it comes to us in Scripture, in prayer, in silence, in the life of Jesus. It is possible when we meet people who are as good as God is. Such people make us shine, recognising our deepest being. Let us be such people for each other.

The formation of silence circles for an hour or so to reflect on injustice and suffering of people can mean listening to the call to connectedness and change, listening to the cry of the earth and of the poor. An hour of silent prayer – or just silence in a circle – can be a strong testimony to our solidarity with the weak in our society and elsewhere. The silence speaks and the circle of solidarity grows.

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Photo credit: https://www.quietrev.com/no-solitude-no-revelation/
Lent, Peace Spirituality

Lent 2019: Reflection for First Sunday of Lent – Pull back to discover what is important

by Rev. Paul Lansu
Senior Policy Advisor, Pax Christi International

[Ed. Note: This is the second in a series of reflections throughout Lent from Rev. Paul Lansu. Reflections on the Sunday readings will be posted each week on the Friday before the Sunday which the reflection references. Holy Day reflections will be posted the day before the actual Holy Day. See all of these reflections and other resources at this link.]

Deut 26:4-10 |  Ps 91 (90) | Rom 10:8-13 | Lk 4:1-13

It is often suggested that each stage of a person’s life is deeply influenced by a particular event, emotion or drive. While pride is ever-present in our hearts, the suggestion is that sometimes young people seek only fun or pleasure and look for an ambitious future; the middle-aged long for stability and status; and many elderly put their hope in certainty and possessions. Some people find such wayward trends alive and well in every stage of their lives and are happy in the ongoing human struggle by inviting Christ to be with them as they grow gradually in the gospel values that redirect these strong human ambitions.

The desert is a learning place

Indeed, before starting a new phase of life, it is worth considering: where do I start? What is important in my life? Why do I want that? What does this mean for my life? A person can withdraw, go to an abbey or search for some silence in the mountains, take a time out, or, like Jesus, go into the desert.

In the Bible, “desert” has its own meaning. It is “a learning place.” You can learn life, consider the important choices that a person has to make and try to give them place. That’s how Jesus did it. He left his family and home, knowing himself as very close to God. And before giving an answer to the call of God, he thought deeply about it. It is about struggling against the temptations that every person knows, the temptations that can keep us from our deepest vocation. In the Gospel, Jesus is tested in his authenticity. Does he, as a preacher behind the scenes, give up his principles when he is offered wealth and status?

Temptations can be part of life!

Today’s gospel recounts in a vividly descriptive way how Christ himself experienced comparable temptations. The bread he was offered when he was hungry is a symbol of how easy it is to justify putting our own comfort and pleasure before the needs and rights of others. His trip to the high mountain with its offer to control many kingdoms alerts us to how we can be tyrants in small ways through emotional blackmail in our families or communities and through pressure groups on the job or in school.

Jesus stayed in the desert for forty days. This refers to the deserts of the Jewish people who lasted forty years. Moses also had to flee to that desert when it all got too much for him. A bush that burns but does not burn up brings him to the realisation: this is a sacred place; here one can meet with God.

By sticking to his principles and his words Jesus showed that the short-lived temptations of power and wealth are inferior to values that last. Yes, status and power are desirable but, in the end, they are passing joys which can drive you mad with addiction and destroy you and your freedom in the process. The biblical advice to set “your heart on things that last because they give you greater peace” does not mean that one choice excludes the other, but rather that we should not worship them as gods.

At the beginning of this Lent, these desert stories about Moses and Jesus also have a special meaning for us. Their message is: we can experience God more than we think. There is more in this world, more around us than we suspect.

In each situation, the choice is between selfishness and the other’s good, between settling for human limitations and accepting our greatness as God’s children. Lent is a time to strengthen the choice to belong enthusiastically to God’s family.

See the good in people

We should live the connection between our prayer, our words and our actions; we should avoid hypocrisy and do good works without telling the whole world about it. We are simply good because God lives in us and, as such, our reward is a better world, a more peaceful heart and the fact that we do not have to hide behind false facades.

We sometimes make mistakes. However, making mistakes in itself is not sinful. It is far worse and sinful to do nothing.

When we see the good in people and bring out the best in each other, there is no distinction between Jew or Greek, between Catholics or Orthodox, between Hindu or Muslims, between Shiites or Sunni, between natives and immigrants. We do not have to prove anything or convert others because who we are and what we do will speak for itself.

Living in a communal home

People are a fundamental part of the earth – the Creation – as the ‘communal home’ in which all creatures have a place. The Encyclical Laudato Si [1] is offering a new grammar of ecology and the virtues that lay the foundation for a new lifestyle, proposing that a dynamic tension must be maintained between a preferential option for the poor and an encouragement of human industry, in furthering the common good.

Ecological issues such as polluted rivers and oceans, air pollution or global warming are increasingly playing out internationally and politically. Climate change has become the most important international issue. These issues concern the direct living conditions of people and have, among other things, bearing on working conditions, fair salaries, working with clean paint materials and non-toxic pesticides. We all know that resources have limits. In the end we will all gain if we can use our resources responsibly.

Putting faith into motion

People’s desire for ever more consumption of goods is the underlying source of today’s spiritual crisis. The message is to carefully handle the earth’s resources. It is a matter of enjoying the ‘enough’. A possible eighth work of mercy [2] is the care for climate, the care for our communal home, the earth.

Every Lent comes with an opportunity to make our love more visible. We call it the Lenten campaign. An idea could be that you put a tree in your church, place of worship, your office or even at home. That tree needs leaves on it so that at Easter it can symbolise new life. The leaves could be made available in some baskets put close to the tree. Before people hang them on the tree, you can write your Lenten gift on them. Not money, but energy! There might be ideas to give back either to the planet or save energy to guarantee sustainable living.

All these eco-gifts could be an Easter-gift. God entrusted us with the task of taking care of his creation. By giving energy in one way, or saving it in another, we can experience the Resurrection because our faith has been put into motion. This doesn’t just benefit ourselves but also raises up the world around us. May our Lent turn ashes into new life.

[1] http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Works_of_mercy

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Photo credit: https://rwelling3.artstation.com/projects/nY53K
Nonviolence, Peace, Peace Spirituality

Active Nonviolence: rediscovering a central teaching of Jesus

By Tony Magliano

“But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

“To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you” (see Luke 6: 27-35).

Do we really take Jesus seriously here?

His first followers certainly did.

Christian literature from the first three centuries affirms that the earliest followers of Jesus Christ completely rejected all forms of violence and bloodshed – no abortion, no euthanasia, no capital punishment, no war.

But this drastically changed when Emperor Theodosius I issued the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 A.D., making Catholic Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire. This marriage of church and state swung open the doors for Christian participation in the military of the Roman Empire. And sadly, Christians have been fighting for empires ever since. But not every Christian…

Click here to read the entire article.

Nonviolence, Peace Spirituality

An ANZAC Day lament

by Rev. Claude Mostowik, msc
Pax Christi Australia

Romans 12:2ff: ‘Don’t change yourselves to be like the people of this world, but let God change you inside with a new way of thinking……….’ We can and must rearrange our priorities….

How do we want to remember ANZAC or any war? To suggest changes in the way we think about Anzac is dangerous territory. The contemporary focus on this sacred day is changing from an inherent opposition to militarism since the 1920’s to a sudden reinvigoration of ANZAC which seems to contribute to a new militarism and nationalism. Whatever this day means, we must recognise that we are all part of ‘the dark ecosystem of violence’ – whether towards Aboriginal people, refugees, asylum seekers, the Earth or peoples we have never met. ANZAC Day is a call us to do life differently. Your presence here today might indicate an interest for some alternative. I begin with a quote from Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination: ‘….real criticism begins in the capacity to grieve because that is the visceral announcement that things are not right. Only in the empire are we invited to pretend that things are all right … And as long as the Empire can keep the pretense alive that things are all right, there will be no real grieving and no real criticism…’ When I think of saints they often become monuments rather than a command/ challenge. Dorothy Day warned again it and in some ways people like Martin Luther King have suffered that fate.

For the past 20 years, Anzac has become impregnable; a bastion of patriotism over which words and argument cannot prevail. Are there other ways of remembering war? As we remember the dead, all, we could honour conscientious objectors who said there is ‘No glory in war’; acknowledging the costs of war; working toward ways that breaks down enmity between people and seeing war and violence as the enemy; of breaking down enmity between people – seeing war and violence as the enemy; an ethic of inclusivity and recognition for all the victims – past and present – of war; choosing a national identity based on positive values of care and service rather than war; holding leaders and war enablers to account; and remembering war so as to ensure ‘Never Again’ as a means to a nonviolent society (Richard Jackson). Let us not reinforce exclusive identities of friend/enemy; worthy/unworthy victims; or let lies obscure the realities of war; or rewrite unjust wars; or myths and lies; or white-wash history; or absolve leaders; or put duty and sacrifice for the nation over above responsibility to the Other; or demand conformity and closing the space for dissent and conscientious objection; or subscribe to the broader culture structures that maintain militarism, the arms trade, war preparedness and the global culture of violence (Richard Jackson).

In the 2017 World Day of Peace Message, Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace, Pope Francis reflected on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace. Whilst drawing attention to the ‘piecemeal’ violence around us: the wars; terrorism, organised crime; abuses suffered against migrants and victims of human trafficking; and environmental devastation, Francis said to be true followers of Jesus today includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence by building up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers; showing mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost [20]. Through our solidarity with one another and the Earth we acknowledge everything is interconnected. We can rearrange our priorities….by giving up any kind of commitment to violence or killing or war. That is Jesus’ way is enemy love. God’s voice is ringing out to us: ‘listen to him’. ‘Put away the sword’. ‘Don’t return evil for evil. Return good for evil’. Listen to him who says ‘try it my way when we seek peace through violence: through war, through conquest, through strife, through the elimination or subduing of an enemy other, or hide behind a Just War doctrine. Let us try to do things differently – to work to build a culture of peace – just peace.

ANZAC Day is a call to remember the many First Peoples in this country who paid in blood to defend this land that we stand on, from invasion. The First Peoples who lost their lives defending their country from invasion in the Frontier Wars. It is a call to remember those voices that said no to war and paid the price – the prophets, teachers, healers and revolutionaries, who have rebelled, worked and suffered for the cause of love and joy.

For the follower of Jesus, there a call to call to listen to his voice and ‘try it my way’ in the face of hurt, suffering, violence, etc.… try it my way with nonviolence, with forgiveness, with compassion and generosity. He showed us that we transform the world through the power of love – not through violence, not through war, not through killing.

A potentially violent outcome is overturned in the first reading. Abraham learned that God was a God of peace and not of sacrifice. It has no sanction in our religion whether in war, refugee camps, the use of sex slaves, human trafficking, child labour, sweat shops or capital punishment. Abraham saw that violence is not God’s way. When the angel stayed Abraham’s hand, it said ‘Enough!’ Sarah was left out. That voice of God still rings out: ‘listen to him’. ‘Put away the sword’. ‘Don’t return evil for evil. Return good for evil’.

With Mother’s Day in two weeks, we forget it began as a Mother’s Day for Peace in 1870 with a Proclamation where women had their eyes opened to the lies, deceit, waste, the evil sacrifice of humanity to war in the form of their children, husbands, fathers and brothers and made a passionate demand for disarmament and peace. ‘We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies, / Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, / For caresses and applause. / Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn / All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. / We, the women of one country, / Will be too tender of those of another country / To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. / From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with / Our own. It says: ‘Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.’

In the gospel today, Jesus enters the temple for one purpose – to overturn business as usual. Jesus, in the gospels, is continually interrupting, disrupting, overturning, and throwing out the business as usual which destroys lives relationships, and environments. Pope Francis stresses that ‘faith and violence are incompatible……’ and that ‘Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare……. the courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict; yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiations and no to hostilities.’ In 2015, he said, ‘It is not enough to talk about peace, peace must be made. To speak about peace without making it is contradictory, and those who speak about peace while promoting war, for example through the sale of weapons, are hypocrites. It is very simple.’ For Francis, Jesus’ mercy is at the heart of ‘shalom’ and the alternative to violence.

The danger is that ANZAC Day will be only a monument rather than a command or challenge to act for peace, to find alternatives to war, to question and reflect why we are fighting in Afghanistan or anywhere else. Tasmanian Governor, Peter Underwood, in 2014 said we need to reflect more on peacemaking rather than glorifying war with such descriptions of the mythical tall, lean, bronzed and laconic ANZAC, enthusiastically and unflinchingly carrying the torch of freedom in the face of murderous enemy fire. Richard Flanagan last week also said we need to drop the sentimental myths that this day has attracted. We dishonour the dead by a perfunctory annual commemoration without thinking what we commemorate and how we can avoid what we commemorate again. Peter Underwood suggested in the 2014 that the beginning of WWI could be commemorated by declaring 2014 a year of peace. Nothing happened. What about 2018?

Political leaders today will speak movingly of the death and destruction of many Australians in Gallipoli and France, yet still want to promote an arms industry to export arms even to countries accused of war crimes and human rights violations. It is deep contradiction as we prostitute ourselves by joining ‘merchants of death’ (Pope Francis). What would Jesus – who said ‘Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword’ — do regarding our fascination for making, possessing, buying, selling, and using high tech weapons?

Not far from here, at National Gallery of Victoria, is a painting by Louis Duffy called Christ driving out the money changers. 16 men in business suits are in confrontation with Jesus. It is set in a graveyard, not a temple. The money changers have morphed into arms dealers trading munitions on the graves of the dead: the ultimate profit and loss indicators of their grim transactions. Jesus always presented options where none existed. He turned things upside down. Another way is possible. John shows us who Jesus is. He is in our midst and shows us how to live differently. Some people have expressed concern about Jesus’ anger. Of greater concern would have been silence, as are many leaders, in the face of injustice, oppression and other acts of violence, or where religion is entangled with power, money and authority that threaten life. We do not need to rely on acts of sacred violence to remain bonded together. We need to find new ways of encountering one another as expressed the following quote: ‘Interred beneath the runways and the sea are the sites of some of the first encounters between Indigenous Australians and British marines and convicts; places where they approached one another with ‘emotions of pleasure, astonishment, curiosity and timidity’ – exchanging gifts and gestures of introduction, touching hair, skin and clothes – each searching tentatively for proof of the others’ humanity’ (Mark McKenna From the Edge: Australia’s Lost Histories).

Today we acknowledge the wounds deep not just in Australia but NZ, Ireland, India, France as well as Germany and Turkey. The latter were defending their country. They never threatened us. We gloss over many anomalies. Do we think of or acknowledge the impact of our alliances – colonial- have meant for others. We must refuse to listen to various voices that would make us more fearful and suspicious. We need to listen to different voices – those who dare us to care, to open our arms out to a world desperate for compassion and healing. We can be more.

Sadly, the churches have rejected or ignored Jesus’ teaching by forming pacts with forces that promoted violence. For 1600 years they have been saddled with the Just War Doctrine. It is not/was not consistent with Jesus’ life and ministry. It often functioned to legitimise and perpetuate war rather than prevent it. It established a mentality where conflict was the only response to conflict. It limited our ability to find nonviolent responses and find resources and skills need to undertake the work.

These betrayed the one who stands amongst us representing the God of nonviolence. A new framework is required which includes not limiting war – but outlawing it. The betrayal continues when they fail denounce the invasion of another country; the moral credence given to war; racism, sexism, corporate greed; obscene accumulation of property and wealth. There is hope because these are our problems and can be changed. They begin in the sanctuary of our heart. If we are interested in patriotism – there is another form: to the planet and humanity. The really fundamental changes in history have not come by government dictate, or battles, but groups of people taking little steps and sometimes in response to Jesus’ ‘try it my way.’

Today we are challenged to see and act differently. We have been exhorted to listen to Jesus. The message is the same: love one another, i.e., take care of one another, especially the downtrodden. It is possible that we can live together in our diversity.We can see things in a new way. We can let go of racism, to let go of an addiction to money, to let go of power and control, to let go of violence, to let go of inaction, to let go of our blindness and selfishness. We can solve international problems without war. We can see the world as a global community and to see all people as our brothers and sisters.

Pope Francis’ core signature phrase is ‘culture of encounter’ which we need to develop. Though differences in ethnicity, religion, race, language, skin colour can breed animosity, enmity and suspicion, when there is a meeting of strangers, walls and those in our hearts can be replaced by bridges. The invitation to embrace ‘the culture of encounter’ is not just about seeing but looking; not just hearing, but listening; allowing ourselves to be moved with compassion. In general it includes reaching out, fostering dialogue and friendship even outside the usual circles, especially people who are neglected and ignored by the wider world.

A superb contribution to just peace was issued by the WCC in a document The Just Peace Companion (2012) alongside another An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace. It states, ‘To care for God’s precious gift of creation and to strive for ecological justice are key principles of just peace. For Christians they are also an expression of the gospel’s call to repent from wasteful use of natural resources and be converted daily. Churches and their members must be cautious with earth’s resources, especially with water. We must protect the populations most vulnerable to climate change and help to secure their rights’ (p. 12).

In April 2016 a ground breaking and unprecedented gathering in Rome, co-hosted by Pax Christi International and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, called for us to go back to the sources of our faith and rediscover the nonviolence at the heart of the Gospel (Jose Henriquez). There was no intention to invent something new but of a return to the sources – to the experience of the early church. The key goal is to outlaw war, not to legitimise or refine the criteria of war by using or teaching just war theory. Just peace is about a vision and praxis is where peace is built up as well the prevention, or defusing, and healing the damage of violence. It’s a commitment to human dignity and thriving relationships. The goal of nonviolent resistance to injustice is to awaken humanity in every person. We spoke not only about war but about the presence of an alternative. It was neither fight, flight nor accommodation but relationships that lead to reconciliation with an oppressor. Just war criteria assume that a strategically applied use of violence under the right conditions will end violence, creating the possibility of peace.

We contribute to peace by recommitting to the centrality of gospel nonviolence and developing practices of nonviolence and just peace. Our contribution involves speaking about and promoting nonviolent resistance to injustice and violence; to resist the waste of military spending; to humanise or illuminate the dignity of our enemies. Jesus showed us a different way: the reign of God where we work to build an inclusive community, which includes so-called enemies, by using the power of nonviolent loving, willing-to-risk-suffering action. He called for open inclusion, not narrow exclusiveness.

The final statement of the Rome conference, ‘An appeal to the Catholic Church to re-commit to the centrality of Gospel nonviolence’, called on the Catholic Church to commit in doctrine and practice to the central importance of «the Gospel of non-violence. We cannot justify or legitimatise military violence. We have wonderful resources in the WCC and Laudato Si’ that recognise that violence done to human communities is accompanied by devastating environmental destruction. Can we hear the ‘cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’ (LS 49). Where there is a lack of connection with the environment which is a form of violence and contributes to the activity of war, ours is to emphasise the protection of life (human and otherwise, including creation) not to destroy it. Instead of thinking as the world thinks or doing what the world does, Jesus says ‘try it my way’ and I pray that we will remember that: As peacemakers let remind the world that violence only perpetuates an endless cycle of violence and that we must not be silent. That, solving problems using the world’s logic doesn’t really solve anything. May we have the courage to not hide our light and not blend into the darkness.

I just want to conclude with the quote from Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination: ‘….real criticism begins in the capacity to grieve because that is the visceral announcement that things are not right. Only in the empire are we invited to pretend that things are all right … And as long as the Empire can keep the pretense alive that things are all right, there will be no real grieving and no real criticism…’