Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Things that Make for Peace: Reflection on the Gospel for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

In his first encyclical, Summi pontificatus, Pope Pius XII reflected on the catastrophe about to envelope the European continent as Adolph Hitler began the invasion of Catholic Poland:

"What calamities could be averted, what happiness and tranquility assured, if the social and international forces working to establish peace would let themselves be permeated by the deep lessons of the Gospel of Love in their struggle against individual or collective egoism!"

The Pope then cited Jesus’ reaction as he wept over Jerusalem, a verse drawn from the gospel for today in the traditional liturgical calendar:

"Our pastoral heart looks on with sorrow and foreboding, the Image of the Good Shepherd comes up before Our gaze, and it seems as though We ought to repeat to the world in His name: 'And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! [i.e., the lessons of the Gospel of Love] But now they are hid from your eyes.'" (RSV)

As Christians are persecuted around the globe, and Israel is being bombarded with Hamas rockets while they use innocent Palestinians as shield for Israel’s retaliation, as the demonic Islamic caliphate attempts genocide vs. the Yazidis, let us listen to the words of the present pope as the world flirts with a wider war:

 “Today our brothers are persecuted….they are banished from their homes and forced to flee without even being able to take their belongings!” ….My dear brothers and sisters who are persecuted, I know how much you suffer; I know that you are deprived of all. I am with you in faith in He who conquered evil”. May the God of peace arouse in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence cannot be overcome with violence. Violence is overcome with peace!”

Taking his cue from the parable of thee weeds and the wheat, Pope Francis explained that here Our Lord speaks to us of the problem of evil in the world and God’s patience. The devil, he said, plants evil where there is good, trying to divide people, families and nations. But God knows how to wait. He looks into the ‘field’ of each person with patience and mercy: he sees the dirt and the evil much better than we do, but he also sees the seeds of good and patiently awaits their sprouting.

Francis teaches that God is a patient father who waits with an open heart to welcome us and to forgive us, but His patience does not mean He is indifferent to evil. One day knownst only to Him, He will separate those who have sown good seed from those who have sown weeds. And, Francis said, we will be judged with the same measure with which we judged others; we will be shown the same mercy we showed towards others. Let us join together as the Holy Father has implored to pray for an end to the strife and sufferings caused by those from whom the things that make for peace are hidden.