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Scripture Readings: Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 11.17.2013
We are mid-way through the month of November. For those who appreciate the implications of the Christ Mystery, the reach of November is even broad. We are mindful of our families, friends and all in the great assembly of good and holy people who preceded us in life and in death.
U.S. officials claim our military presence in Afghanistan is necessary to protect women and children. We remember and pray for the 5,000 plus U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and the 2,000 killed in Afghanistan! Our hearts reach out further than that. Reliable sources estimate hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed in our nation’s two most recent wars.
In September last year, early in the morning, a group of eight women and their children were walking in the harsh, stony mountains near their village. They were collecting firewood to cook a little food for their families breakfast. Suddenly, unexpectedly, literally out of the blue sky, those eight women and their children were blown up. Eight other women and their children were severely injured and hospitalized.
At this mid-point in November I invite you to think of these innocent victims walking in pre-dawn darkness, and others like them, suddenly dead! * They also are part of our family and their deaths call us back to the gospel, to the God of peace.
I think I am able to connect such memories with the gospel from Luke’s gospel proclaimed here today. The final version this gospel was completed in the mid-80’s. The events described happened at least 15 years before the gospel was written. Some overlook this and mistakenly claim that Jesus is foretelling various future events. That is not so.
“The days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” Luke is describing what happened fifteen years earlier. In the 70’s the Romans had destroyed both Jerusalem and the Great Temple. “They will seize and persecute you, hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons… and they will put some of you to death.” Luke describes what his community was experiencing at the time the gospel was written.
Luke believed the destruction of Jerusalem was hooked up with the death of Jesus. When the city’s inhabitants rejected Jesus’ message of nonviolence they created their own fate. Instead of learning from the nonviolent Jesus and loving their enemies without condition, they turned to violent rebellion, somewhat as we see today in Syria. That led to disaster and still fifteen years later, the city and temple were nothing but a heap of ruins.
That is the context in which this gospel was composed. In addition Luke’s community was expecting Christ to return. Now, contrary to their expectations, the Risen One had not returned and they were “being seized, persecuted and put to death.” He is preparing them for the long haul. “They will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” That was a simple acknowledgement this greatly anticipated event is still in the distant, undetermined future.
So what do these texts say to us today? Perhaps this. Jesus of Nazareth called all who will follow him to an entirely new way of relating with everyone on the planet. Violence in any form and for any reason goes against and is a denial of the nonviolent way of Jesus. No cause is worth the death of a single human being. No cause is worth the killing of eight women, their children and hundreds of thousands of other innocent victims. We who affirm and believe in the Communion of Saints are called to practice universal nonviolent love.
So now, mid-way through November, I urge you to reach out with your heart to all in the great assembly of good and holy people who preceded us in life, and in death. Remember our families, friends, and all innocent people walking in pre-dawn darkness, suddenly dead. Memories of them will lead us back to the gospel, and to the God of universal, nonviolent love and to peace.