October 6, 2002
Producing the Good Fruit
"A Retreat on Peace and Nonviolence, Pax Christi Pittsburgh, PA,"
Mt. 21:33-34. "The reign of God will be given to a people that will
produce its fruit."
The parable which Jesus tells today sums up the story of God's efforts
to save us from our violent selves, to disarm us, and to lead us into
the fullness of life and nonviolence here and now on earth.
A landowner sends servants out to his vineyard to collect his produce.
But one by one, they are beaten and killed. Finally, he sends his son,
whom they seize, throw out of the vineyard and kill. In a nutshell, Jesus
explains what God has done in history, sending us great prophets, peacemakers
and saints who invited us to serve God's reign of peace. One by one, we
rejected and killed them all, until Jesus himself comes to the rescue.
And Jesus, as we know, we totally rejected, betrayed, denied, abandoned,
brutally tortured and horribly executed.
Our parable also sums up our own modern history of peacemaking saints
and martyrs, from Gandhi and King to Dorothy Day and Ita Ford, from Franz
Jagerstatter and Edith Stein to Oscar Romero and Jean Donovan. During
the last century, we have heard from a stunning array of peacemakers,
all of whom the world rejected, many of whom were killed.
Finally, the parable sums up our story too. Each one of us is sent to
serve God's reign of peace and justice, to carry on Jesus' work of disarmament
and healing, to witness to the wisdom of nonviolence and the new life
of resurrection. Whether we speak out against Bush's war on Iraq, U.S.
military aid to Israel and the brutal occupation of the Palestinians,
U.S. militarism in Colombia, U.S. terrorist training classes in Fort Benning,
Georgia, or our continued immoral maintenance of nearly 30,000 nuclear
weapons, we can expect to be rejected, dismissed, ridiculed, laughed at,
mocked, denounced, or worse, harassed by the authorities, arrested for
crossing the line or even imprisoned. This is what has happened to all
the great peacemakers before us, so why should we expect anything different.
Nonetheless, this is the task before, the journey ahead of us, the work
at hand. We are called to carry on the prophetic tradition of peacemaking,
to announce God's reign of peace and nonviolence, and therefore to denounce
America's war on Iraq, its global nuclear terrorism, and all the injustice
and poverty that breeds from our systemic violence.
Let me just add how helpful this last verse is, "that the reign of God
will be given to a people that will produce its fruit." (Mt. 21:43) Notice
that the Gospel does not call us to be successful, effective or to
achieve a lot of results. It does not speak about great numbers or even
It talks rather of producing good fruit for the God of peace, a much
more nonviolent, much more subtle, much more human, much more gentle image.
We North Americans are socialized to get results and be successful,
this is the great trap of our peace movement, but this is not the spirit
of the Gospel. Instead, we're summoned simply to be faithful to the way
of nonviolence, to seek God's reign of justice for the poor, to heal the
broken, liberate the oppressed, forgive one another and love our enemies.
We are commanded simply to break the silence of the culture of war
and speak the truth of peace. If we do these things, quietly, lovingly,
compassion, and keep on doing them, and stay faithful to the journey
one step at a time, our lives will bear good fruit, and the Great Landowner
will be pleased and bless us abundantly.
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