15th October 2023

The events of last weekend in Our Lord’s earthly homeland have deeply troubled many, if not all of us. For me, it has been a double ‘punch in the guts’. Firstly, like many of you, I find it hard to process the barbarity of this action especially where it has involved the elderly and children. The savagery is utterly overwhelming. Secondly – and I suspect I’m not alone in this – I am disturbed to have found myself easily moved to something of the same kind of vengeful language that trips so easily (and well calibrated) from the lips of politicians and pundits across the world, whilst at the same time feeling deeply uneasy about that language. We know it’s an understandable response, an acceptable response; but we also know from experience that vengeful rhetoric and action is not going to solve long-standing problems for reasons that are as much to do with temperament as they are politics. If anything, it’s only going to make it worse, much worse.

That second ‘punch in the guts’ is, personally speaking, the more disturbing. It has shown me how very far from the mind of Jesus I actually am. In the mind of Jesus, which is what we should all be aiming to attain according to St Paul, there is no room for vengeance and violence. In His teaching, Our Blessed Lord, doesn’t suggest for one minute that we should roll over and let the savagery of our enemies have free reign (contrary to popular opinion, that is emphatically NOT what the teaching on ‘turn the other cheek’ means). Our Blessed Lord knows that we have been hardwired for violence and vengeance and that it’s deeply ingrained in our societies with very few exceptions. Only a completely ‘new way’ is going to change the status quo which brings so much misery and suffering. This is why he prefaces his teaching on nonviolence in St Matthew’s Gospel again and again with the phrase, “You have heard how it was said…But I say to you….” Jesus has little, if anything, to say about the ‘hot sins’ of homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia (except via that which is implicit) but He DOES make it crystal clear what he thinks about my notions of retribution and violence.

So where does this leave me? Floundering, for want of a better word. How can I preach that message on the streets of this country, never mind in Israel and Gaza? How can I be faithful to Jesus’ teaching and not look like I’m playing fast and loose with the reality of abducted mothers and children, slaughtered Holocaust survivors, butchered families, innocent Gazan children and civilians who are being used as human shields? The answer is simple: I don’t know. But I do know that to jump on either bandwagon is to betray the heart of Jesus which is already sore-wounded by the horrors of these last days. I do believe that the very First Responder at the scene of a massacred family in Israel or a bombed street in Gaza was the God of Jesus Christ, bending down to enfold His beloved children in His arms and to wash away their pain with His tears. The only way I can be more like that, rather than the faux righteousness of outraged politicians and pundits, is to pray. This war erupted on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Again, I urge you, pick up your beads and ask Our Lady to make us more like her Son in our responses to evil. We shall make that our very special intention at Rosary & Benediction this weekend (Sunday, St Paul’s 3:30pm)

A WORD OF WISDOM: An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind. Ghandi.

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