Psalms 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6
Many of us have probably attended a prayer vigil or service to remember the victims and their families of September 11th attacks, as well as to pray for peace. As the threats of more terrorism and retaliation abound, work and prayer for peace grow all the more imperative.
Yet, in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his listeners, “I have come to light a fire on the earth…I have a baptism to receive. What anguish I feel till it is over! Do you think I have come to establish peace on the earth? I assure you, the contrary is true; I have come for division.” As Jesus continues, he tells of divisions arising in homes, between father and son, mother and daughter, family of origin and in-laws.
This is NOT what I wished to reflect on today. This passage has always made me uncomfortable; my tendency was to skip over it rather than grapple with its meaning. As I prayed with this scripture, I kept getting stuck with Jesus’ pronouncement that he had not come to establish peace on this earth. (How do I reconcile this with our tradition’s naming Jesus, ‘Prince of Peace’ or Jesus’ ongoing resurrection message, “Peace be with you”?)
Perhaps today’s reading from Romans gives a bit of insight. Prior to today’s passage, Paul reminds the Romans, “Thanks be to God, that though once you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that rule of teaching imparted to you; freed from your sin, you become forever committed to justice.” Then in today’s reading, “…now make them (your bodies) stewards of justice for their sanctification. When you were slaves to sin, you felt no need to work for justice.”
Through our baptism, as members of Christ’s body here on earth, we are mandated to work for justice. For me, the saying, “…if you want peace, you must work for justice” makes sense. Peace will not automatically happen between individuals and/or nations with differing views of what is right. It takes a lot of prayer, reflection, work, time and effort ongoingly to make peace and justice happen.
However, varying views of what the US should or should not do in response to the September 11th attacks exist among my own family and friends. How do we, with each other, let alone with the other nations of the world, root out evil? Evil exists, not only in the September 11th attacks, but also in the ongoing economic, political, philosophical and theological oppressions and violence that are visited upon peoples due to others’ thirst for power and/or an insistence that only one vision/perspective is the ‘right’ way.
How do we ‘let God’ into this suffering due to violence and oppressions of peoples in the world? As someone recently asked me, “What do you think Christ would do in the midst of our world’s predicament today? What would he ask of us, his followers?”
I don’t have the answers, but this question brings me to know that
I/we cannot proclaim that we know what God wants. However, I do believe
that we may be led to some insights to what Jesus and our God might be
leading us by spending time in prayerful dialogue and relationship with
our God and our neighbors, be they family, friends, strangers or our enemies.
I don’t believe this is the ‘easy way out’; rather, I believe that it would
be the beginning of a very difficult and long journey. Perhaps this
is the baptism that Jesus (Luke 6:50) - and we have to receive.
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