Friday, June 20, 2008

12th Sunday of the Year

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul

One tv series I really enjoy is 24. It is exciting, cliffhanging and thrilling. At times there are spectacular effects and some great technology. It is also, of course quite unrealistic, as in 24 hours, the hero Jack Bauer, travels great distances, saves the world several times, thwarts many villains, in 24 hours, over 24 episodes. And though I enjoy it, it also worries me, because for Jack the end really does justify the means, and murder, deceit and torture are all in frequent use.

It worries me that the programme portrays violence in such an approving way. But it also troubles me to think not could I use such violence, but could I bear it? Good people, saints and prisoners of conscience, have endured emotional and physical torture in an attempt to break them down. They have suffered pain and great distress in holding to what they believe to be true and protecting others from the tyrant and the torturer.

And Christ, who knew he was going to suffer, says to those who he knows will bear his suffering, “Do not be afraid”. What the torturer is really tryingt to do is not break the body - but destroy the soul. The pain of the body need not touch the soul. The strength of spirit can overcome and sustain us through physical trials.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones” we used to chant as children, “but words will never hurt me.” Of course words do hurt us, and perhaps they hurt us even more than the physical pain, because the words damage our dignity, our self-esteem, our loves, our loyalties and our beliefs.

The real enemy is not the torturer, but the tempter. Not the one who inflicts pain, but the one who entices us with pleasure. Not the one who shows his hatred, but the one who seems to reassure and befriend and lead us away from what we know to be true and good.

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