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October 13, 2002

"God Will Destroy Death Forever."

BY JOHN DEAR
" God will destroy death forever and wipe away the tears from every face."

Isaiah 25:6-10; Matthew 22:1-10

 I wish I had a good joke to tell you to cheer you all up, but I don't know any good jokes. For example, "How do you make holy water?"

You boil the hell out of it. See I told you I don't know any good jokes.

I'm glad to be back from Pittsburgh last weekend, but have been deeply upset all week that our country is going to bomb Iraq. War will not bring democracy to Iraq; it will only kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people, mostly children, people just like you and me.

I have always wanted to take Jesus seriously, like all of you; to love everyone on the whole planet like he did, and to try and serve God's reign, and so throughout my whole life, as I've told some of you, I've been involved with other church people in speaking out against war and poverty, lobbied politicians for disarmament, traveled in many war zones around the world, been at many peace protests against war and the death penalty, and even been arrested and jailed many times in protests against war and nuclear weapons, in the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez, trying to follow Jesus, to take a stand for peace and life.

A few years ago, I went to Iraq with a group of Nobel Peace Prize winners, and I saw how the Iraqi people have suffered from our bombs and from the sanctions. I remember meeting with the Papal Nuncio who spoke about the large Catholic population in Iraq and cried begging us to stop the bombings.

For the last two weeks, the Pope and the bishops have been saying over and over, Don't bomb Iraq! Going to war with Iraq won't stop terrorism or protect us; it will only make matters worse. Jesus wants us to love the people of Iraq, not bomb them, so I think Jesus must be weeping over what we are doing.

The readings today are so beautiful because they speak about God's vision of the world, how God wants us to enjoy life with the whole human race, how God's reign is a place of love, peace and joy.

The prophet Isaiah says that on God's mountain, in God's house, there will be food and wine for everyone. Heaven is going to be a big party, and what's so exciting is that heaven is not just up there, but here and now. God is going to destroy death forever, Isaiah says, and wipe away all our tears and everyone is going to be happy and live in peace and love together.

Jesus takes up where Isaiah left off. Today, he tells us that the reign of God is like a wedding banquet, which is really one of the happiest experiences in life. In Jesus' day, the wedding feast would go on for days. Everyone would eat, sing, dance, and praise God. Jesus says life is like that, that the reign of God is like that, that the world should be like a great fiesta, that everyone should be eating, singing and dancing, that everyone should put aside their grievances and love one another and rejoice in life and praise God, and wipe away every trace of killing and death.

God has prepared a huge wedding feast, Jesus says, and everyone is invited! But what is so shocking and disturbing in the story and our world is that people don't want to go. People turn down God's invitation to the wedding banquet. Some ignore it; some go away; but worst of all, some of them harass and kill God's messengers. People don't want God or God's way of love and peace and nonviolence.

But God insists that the wedding hall should be filled with guests, and orders his servants to go out to the highways and byways and bring people into God's house, into the wedding banquet.

This is exactly what has happened to you and me. We have been brought into God's reign, maybe without our even knowing it. All of you are already living in the wedding feast of God's reign of peace and love. And the Good News today is that all we have to do is relax and enjoy life and help others have the fullness of life, too.

All we have to do is enjoy the party, enjoy the company of Jesus, enjoy one another, and help bring others into God's party, into God's reign of peace and life, but that means we have to speak out against all that goes against God's reign, including bombing the Iraqi people, which God surely doesn't want, and call for peaceful resolutions to the crisis. All we have to do is help one another accept God's invitation to the wedding banquet of life, help one another reject violence and war and death, and make God happy by enjoying the fiesta.

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