Fr. Wilmar Zabala
17 November 2005
Jesus’ weeping over Jerusalem starkly brought together the imperative of recognizing “the things that make for peace” and the consequences of war. Listen to these tragic consequences: “your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every sides. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another.” (Luke 19:41-44, NRSV)
The scope of war is even more terrible now than then. Graphic reminders of tragic and devastating violence bombard our senses on daily newscasts. Jerusalem is a symbol for a nation, for the church, for a religious community, for each of us.
The gospel reading challenges us to weep over “places” in our midst or “situations” in our lives where there is injustice and oppression, where there is destruction and violence. In other words, any act of injustice and oppression and destruction and violence must bring us to our senses, and our “weeping” or “lamenting” should move us to doing what the gospel passage calls “the things that make for peace.”
Francis of Assisi teaches us that those who want peace must first possess it in their hearts and then give birth to it in the world. Gandhi echoes the same sentiment: “If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed – but hate these things inside yourself, not in another.”
Whether we are in the midst of a culture war, where fighting involves words and issues, or a full-scale military conflagration with bullets and bombs, there’s always a need for peacemakers who will cross enemy lines, show respect and love, and proclaim the mercy of God. Unless we have peace in our hearts we won’t be agents of peace in the world.
The gospel challenges us today to consciously practice goodness, purity, and non-resistance, no matter what others do to us. Too many would-be peacemakers start out with good intentions, but they change course and react with anger when they are attacked or criticized. Responding to evil with good and answering hate with love is a powerful force.
May our personal relationship with God give us the courage to cross enemy lines and extend a hand of love and mercy to those who are different from us or those who disagree with us. It is only when we are vulnerable to love and mercy that we can really sow peace in the world.
As recording artist John Michael Talbot would say, “Come, volunteer for service in the forces of love and let’s wage peace!”
2007 by Fr. Wilmar Zabala