On The Road to Peace

Monthly Newsletter from Fr. John


March 2015

Dear Friends,


Dear friends,

Walking the Way: Following Jesus on the Lenten Journey of Gospel Nonviolence to the Cross and Resurrection is out and I'm very excited about it. I think it offers some original insights into Jesus and his way of nonviolence. I invite you to help me promote the book. Order copies for yourself, friends, relatives, and priests. Write a review of it. Comment about it on Amazon and facebook. Help support it!

I've been running daily excerpts on my facebook page, and thought I would share here some quotes from the book for your reflection.

With blessings to you on your Lenten Journey of peace, Fr. John

***

"Lent is a time to turn from violence to nonviolence, and become practitioners of Gospel nonviolence. We can use these holy days to let Jesus teach us the wisdom of nonviolence, to renounce our own violence and be healed of the culture of war. We can let him disarm our hearts and form us into people of nonviolence. As we renew our nonviolence, we can start again on the journey of discipleship on the way of the cross and the resurrection to do our part for justice, disarmament, environmental stewardship and peace.

Jesus does not want us just to talk the talk, but to walk his walk. His walk takes us on a very particular way, the narrow path of nonviolence. Indeed, as the Gospel of John announces, Jesus embodies this narrow path of nonviolence. Lent is a good time to start walking again in the footsteps of the nonviolent Jesus."

***

"As we enter the story of the Gospels, we let the nonviolent Jesus form us, teach us, train us, that we too might walk his path of active nonviolence. He wants us to heal every one we know of violence, to expel the demons of war and empire, and to announce the coming of God's reign of nonviolence through our political work to end war, poverty, and environmental destruction. He wants us to practice what he preaches, to learn his lessons and take up where he left off.

Jesus wants to send us out missionaries of peace and nonviolence into the world of war and violence. For that, we need training and preparation. We need a daily practice of quiet meditation, the support of community and friends, and a long haul view of salvation history. Renewed by the nonviolence of Jesus, we can take a step forward, walk the way of nonviolence, and offer sisters and brothers everywhere his gift of peace."

***

"What does Jesus' journey to Jerusalem mean for us today? If we are going to walk the way with Jesus, we need to be Jerusalem bound. Every follower of Jesus is on a long walk to the center of power, not to attain power, but to stand up and speak truth to power. We walk to our own modern day Jerusalems, where we too confront systemic injustice, war, and empire, using the power of Gospel nonviolence, come what may.

Yes, we can walk to Jerusalem with the nonviolent Jesus. We need not be afraid, anxious or confused. We can take a stand for justice and peace, even in the places of power. We can join the grassroots campaigns of nonviolence that resist systemic injustice and empire and announce God's reign of nonviolence as a new world without war, poverty, nuclear weapons and environmental destruction. Most of all, we can trust that we will be greatly blessed, because we walk in the footsteps of the nonviolent Jesus. And so, we walk on."

***

"In Luke 10:1-20, he gathers seventy two unnamed disciples and sends them out in pairs ahead of him to announce God's reign, heal the sick, expel the demons and invite everyone into his new life of peace. They are missionaries of nonviolence sent into the culture of violence.

Imagine sending 36 teams of nonviolence trainers into the war-torn countryside to invite people out of war, poverty and empire into the new life of loving nonviolence. Jesus is not just a community organizer or a movement builder; he's a nonviolent general who commands a nonviolent army. Instead of waging war, he wages peace. He sends them out to disarm everyone, dismantle the empire, and lead humanity into the peace of God's reign. He mobilizes an astonishing campaign of active nonviolence, an authentic peace movement—right there on the edge of the brutal empire."

***

 "Christian discipleship necessitates a few things: creative nonviolence, universal love, peaceable wholeness, gentle mindfulness and steadfast resistance to injustice. But it requires a thing more--forgiveness toward those who have rejected us and hurt us.

To reach such Gospel heights, we need to practice forgiveness as a daily discipline. Lent is a good time to ritualize forgiveness toward those who have hurt us, to make it a practice that becomes the norm. Only then can we hope to achieve something of the lavish Gospel kind--the capacity to forgive even those who kill our loved ones or would kill us, as exhibited at Golgotha."

*** "The challenge is to side with this nonviolent Jesus who knows the things that make for peace, and therefore, to learn from him the things that make for peace. As followers of the nonviolent Jesus, we want to do what others were not able to do—to learn the things that make for peace.

As we determine to spend our lives walking the way of nonviolence with Jesus, we choose to become people who do not reject "the things that make for peace." We choose to become people who know and learn and live "the things that make for peace." That becomes the hallmark of our own lives.

What are "the things that make for peace" which he talks about as he reaches Jerusalem? The Sermon on the Mount catalogues a long to-do list for peace, love, nonviolence and justice. Peace comes through regular prayer and trust in the God of peace. Love for neighbor and enemy. Nonviolent resistance to evil. Compassion for everyone. Forgiveness toward those who have hurt us. Reconciliation with everyone. Justice for the poor. Opening our hearts to God's loving grace. And radical discipleship to the nonviolent Jesus. As we walk this way of nonviolence, Jesus offers peace as his personal gift to us. That's his gift to us, and it becomes the center of our lives." ***

 "Holy Week starts with a provocative, even shocking political statement that gets to the heart of our predicament. It begins with a symbolic peace march. The nonviolent Jesus enters Jerusalem by riding in on a donkey! We have heard the story a million times before, but if we scratch the surface, we will find it politically loaded and daring. Jesus is not just tired of walking. He is fulfilling an ancient oracle about the coming of a new "king" of nonviolence, a gentle, humble, meek ruler who would work for the abolition of war and proclaim peace to the whole world.

Jesus' arrival into Jerusalem coincides with the triumphal military entry of the Roman imperial representative, Pontius Pilate. On the other side of the walled city, Pilate rides into Jerusalem on his war chariot and his war horse, with the whole cohort of six hundred Roman soldiers, making a full show of imperial force, power, war and military triumph.

But here, on the other side of Jerusalem, Jesus rides in on a donkey—meek, humble, gentle and nonviolent. He is the opposite of the war machine, imperial might and military power. He comes as a symbol of nonviolent power. He embodies the God of peace. He is a new kind of king—a king of nonviolence. His symbolic act is bold, political street theater at its finest."

***

 "As we begin Holy Week, the Holy Days of peace during our unholy time of violence and war, I invite everyone to discuss the nonviolence of Jesus with those around them. Ask your relatives, friends, students, teachers, priests, co-workers and neighbors, especially those who profess to be Christian, about our messiah's scandalous nonviolence, his commands to love enemies and put down the sword, and the political implications for today. Ask people what they think of Jesus' fulfillment of Zechariah's anti-war, pro-peace leader. Ask them if they want to follow a leader of nonviolence or not.

I've been talking about the nonviolence of Jesus every day for the past thirty five years. Whenever some Catholic or Christian challenges my anti-war stand, I always ask them about Jesus. "What he would say?" I ask. What do you think about his peace teachings? Do you welcome his gift and reign of peace?

"Why do you bring him up?" I inevitably get asked. "What does he have to do with this?"

"Everything," I reply. "You cannot claim to be his follower and support war, violence or injustice of any kind." Bringing Jesus into these political conversations often sheds new light on our preference for violence and war opens up the possibility of nonviolence and God's peaceful nature." ***   "Jesus wants everyone to welcome God's reign of peace and justice for the poor, to love one another and their enemies, to work for justice, serve the poor, worship the God of peace, and resist empire through his way of creative nonviolence. This could have happened if the people of his day had seen the light, rejected violence and empire, and accepted his wisdom of nonviolence. But instead of accepting the Kingdom of God and Jesus' way of nonviolence, we rejected him and killed him. I think Jesus hoped his kingdom and message would be accepted. He didn't want to be killed or martyred. But over time, he realized the inevitable—people do not want his realm of nonviolence and the systems of war and empire are not going to relinquish their power. Jesus accepted the likely outcome of assassination just as Gandhi, Dr. King, and Archbishop Romero inevitably did too. He read the writing on the wall; he knew that if you speak out against war and empire, in a world of war and empire, you will get arrested and killed." 

*** 

  "The nonviolent Jesus was decidedly not passive. He did not sit under a tree for years on end and practice his breathing. He walked regularly into the face of danger, spoke the truth, resisted empire, and demanded justice. As far as decent law-abiding, religious people were concerned, he was nothing but trouble. He hung out with the wrong people, healed at the wrong time, visited the wrong places, and said the wrong things. His active nonviolence was dangerous and threatening. He was clearly building a nonviolent movement which had the power to bring down the empire, which, one could argue, in the end, actually did. Ruling authorities always understand the power of nonviolence better than us, and Jesus knew that too. He could see that they might crush him, but went ahead anyway because he knew that nonviolence always works, that it always bears good fruit, and that it can become contagious and expand into a global movement that topples even empires. He could see, like Gandhi and King, how the politics of nonviolence may lead to crucifixion, but that it also opens the door to resurrection."

***

   "When Jesus invites us into his new covenant of nonviolence at the Last Supper, he throws away the old covenant of violence. With this historic, salvific breakthrough, he frees us from the old rules, laws, and ways of violence, war and empire. He dismisses the ancient fundamentalism which once sanctified violence. Indeed, he rejects any image of divine violence. He does away with every justification of violence. From now on, in his new covenant of nonviolence, we live by a new set of boundaries, based on peace, love, forgiveness and compassion, and so we dwell in Christ's peace. We behave within the boundaries of nonviolence and so live in God's reign of nonviolence here and now, and for all eternity. At the Last Supper, with this new covenant, Jesus sets humanity on a new path toward peace. The days of violence and killing are formally declared over. A new day has begun. It begins with his unconditional disarmament and invitation to enter the covenant of nonviolence." ***

 "The key question of Holy Week is: How did Jesus remain so nonviolent throughout his arrest, abandonment, trials, torture and execution? Throughout it all, up until his dying breath, Jesus remains perfectly nonviolent, faithful and loving. Gandhi called his spirit throughout his trial, execution and death, the greatest act of nonviolence in history.

How could he or anyone stay so nonviolent through such brutal violence? The answer is because he prayed so intensely in the garden beforehand. He turned to God, centered himself once again in intimate relationship with his beloved God and surrendered himself all over again to God. He wrestled with God over his situation, brought his desire to God, accepted God's will and received an inner peace after his prayerful agony. Every molecule of his being was focused on God and his prayer: "Not my will, but your will be done!"

***  "Lent invites us to walk with the nonviolent Jesus on the way of the cross, that is, the way of loving nonviolence and steadfast resistance to systemic injustice. If we do our work and take time to reflect on Jesus' nonviolence and our discipleship to him, we will invariably notice the various ways that we, too, reject his nonviolence and run away from him, just as the first disciples did. This self-examination is critically important. We need not panic because we feel this way. Instead, such awareness offers new opportunities for prayer, inner disarmament, growing in faith, learning to trust Jesus, and recommitting ourselves to him all over again." ***  "Lent invites us to walk with the nonviolent Jesus on the way of the cross, that is, the way of loving nonviolence and steadfast resistance to systemic injustice. If we do our work and take time to reflect on Jesus' nonviolence and our discipleship to him, we will invariably notice the various ways that we, too, reject his nonviolence and run away from him, just as the first disciples did. Each Lent, we walk with Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, to his civil disobedience in the Temple and arrest in the Garden. This journey helps us take new steps forward on the path of nonviolence, that we might not be people who take up the sword or perish by the sword, but people who walk in light, love and peace, who work to end the killing and war-making.  ***  "Lent invites us to learn Jesus' way of nonviolence, to train ourselves and be ready so that when push comes to shove, we do not take up the sword, but remain peaceful, nonviolent, faithful, so that we can be his instruments of peace. As more and more of us accept Jesus' nonviolence, and spread his teaching, we can help end the death penalty, stop our wars, abolish our nuclear weapons, and halt the plague of violence that infects us all. We need not participate in the senseless game of violence anymore. We have seen how the cycle of violence fails time and again. As followers of the nonviolent Jesus, we have a better way."

---Fr. John



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