I begin each day by reading the cartoon section of the newspaper. Then I may have the courage to look at the headlines. Headline after headline tells us of the ravages of war, and threats of wars. Violence reigns in the news.
This is nothing new. If you tour the museums around the world that show humankind's history, you will see many displays showing artifacts of war --weapons, armor suits, maps of battles. If you tour ancient village ruins in Europe, you will see old forts, city walls, fortifications, munitions, and monuments of war. Across the whole world are strewn military graves, graves with bodies from both sides of every conflict.
What comes to mind is the popular song of thirty years ago: Where have all the flowers gone? The refrain asked the haunting question, "When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?"
There is a story told of two young boys. One called another a bad name, they both got angry, and they began fighting. One parent yelled at them. They stopped for a while, and then began again. Another parent stepped in and separated them. But after a while they began again. Another parent threatened them with no supper. That worked for a while but they began again. Finally, one wise parent threw them a baseball and two gloves. They picked them up, began playing catch. And the fighting ended. The hands that once were fists were now needed to catch and throw. Fun led to friendship, which made fighting now seem stupid.
Some time ago I heard in the news about a group of Palestinians and Israelis who met in San Mateo, CA. They came together as friends to discuss issues. They saw themselves as human and equal. The result was friendship, even dancing together.
In the gospel of Luke, Jesus tells a young man to divest himself of his wealth. It was getting in his way of following Jesus. Maybe wealth is not our problem. Maybe what Jesus is asking us today is to divest ourselves of other stuff that may be getting in our way. Do we need to divest ourselves of:
-- Prejudice, and see each person as human and equal.
-- Anger, and replace it with patience and forgiveness
-- Greed, and put on the spirit of justice and generosity
-- Pride and flaunting of power, and grow in humility
-- Envy, so we can show respect for each other's rights
-- Lying, and always speak the truth, trust
-- Selfishness, put on love and the spirit of sharing
-- Divest yourself of blindness and put on wisdom, put on Christ.
Yes, there are many things besides riches that make it difficult for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.
Peace among nations begins with peace among individuals. We can pray for others far away. We can begin by making sure we are people of peace.
The young man in Luke's gospel said he kept the commandments. Implied in the old commandments are these modern applications.
Thou shalt not waste energy. Just think of all the natural resources that go into maintaining the world's armies
Thou shalt not waste money. What if the majority of military budgets went instead into paying for global education, medicine, decent housing and sanitation, and promoting art and beauty
Thou shalt not waste time. Time is a gift for developing the human spirit and enjoying life.
Thou shalt not waste lives. How many future scientists, musicians, doctors, poets, Nobel Prize winners are buried in military cemeteries, people whose lives never reached their potential, because somebody thought we should have a war.
Einstein was once asked how a third world war might be fought? He wouldn't predict. But he did say how he thought a fourth world war would be fought. With clubs. It would be the stone-age again. He also wisely observed, "Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding."
The real test of power is not in the capacity to make war, but the capacity to prevent it. General Ulysses Grant observed, "There never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword."
Jesus tells us, "You have heard the commandment, you shall love your countryman but hate your enemy. My command to you is, love your enemies. Pray for your persecutors. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you and pray for those who maltreat you."
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops commented,
"The words of Jesus would remain an impossible, abstract ideal were it not for two things: The actions of Jesus and his gift of the Spirit."
We have tried to find peace by sending diplomats, generals, and mediators. It is now time for the most effective summit. Go straight to the top. Ask the Lord Almighty to show us the way to peace. Prayer for peace is everyone's job.