Saturday, August 26, 2006

Ordinary Time Sunday 21

Today's Gospel is about conflilct and rejection. It is also about truth, and about faith.

We live in a world where we yearn for compromise, for harmony, for reconciliation. We ask ourselves why Arab and Israeli, Jews, Christians and Muslims cannot live together in peace in the Middle East. Surely, we think, there can be give and take, live and let live. We are confused that there are Muslims, who believe in a merciful God, who in the name of their faith carry out terrible acts. And - before we become too complacent - let us not forget that it is not so long ago that we were troubled and disturbed by atrocities carried out in these very islands by those calling themselves catholics. When there is conflict, we want there to be peace - where there is discord we want harmony. If there is any prayer that sums up the feeling of the age, then it is that prayer of St Francis, 'Make me a channel of your peace'.

And these aspirations are of course good. We feel discomfort in the charge that it is made that religion has been the cause of war and suffering and pain in the world. We feel discomfort because we know that sometimes it is true. However, we feel that faith is about love, forgiveness, harmony, reconciliation - peace. Didn't Christ say 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you'?

But there is a problem. Didn't Jesus also say 'I come to bring not peace, but a sword'? Didn't he also say 'He who is not with me is against me'? Did he not also say 'Blessed are those who are persecuted'? Didn't he also say 'Brother will betray brother to death and the father his child'? Didnt he also say "If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple." and in today's Gospel, didn't some of his followers say 'This is intolerable language' - and didn't some of them leave him, and stop following him?

The trouble is that truth is disturbing. It challenges. It threatens those who live with lies. Justice is troubling. It unsettles those who live comfortably off the exploitation of others. The light shines into the dark corners where things are hidden away from the clear light of day.

We could have a kind of peace which is based on lies, ignorance and deceit. We could ignore or hide the truth, pretend it does not matter, or say that there is no such thing as truth anyway. We could fool ourselves that all views are equal, all positions are valid as one another, everything a matter of choice, or private preference.

Or we can be honest.

There is no contradiction in longing for peace and facing rejection. Sometimes love is ridiculed and trust is exploited, but this does not make them worthless or pointless. True peace, true reconciliation must come from truth - but that truth may not always be welcome or comfortable or soothing. But truth is the only way, the only certainty.

Lord, Where else can we go?

You, Lord, have the message of eternal life, and we believe, we know,
that you are the Holy One of God.

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