Turn away from violence!

Lenten Meditations on Justice and Peace

by Robert Waldrop

March 4, 1998, Memorial of St. Casimir

Readings: Jonah 3:1-10, Psalm 51, Luke 11:29-32

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The story thus far. God has told Jonah to go to the Nineveh and Jonah doesn't want to go. It takes a quick three day/three night no continental breakfast vacation in the belly of a large fish to convince Jonah that obedience to God was the right thing to do. So he went to Nineveh, preached the Gospel, and behold, it came to pass that the people repented, the king proclaimed a fast, and everybody started running around in sack-cloth and ashes. Remember this is not the Bible Belt, it's Nineveh, capital of Assyria, a nation of fierce and cruel warriors and conquerors.

Why was doom and destruction coming to this cosmopolitan capital of a major empire? We have some clues. Nineveh was built on idolatry and conquest and war. (And those who live by the sword tend to perish by the sword.) The King's proclamation directs that everyone shall turn "from the violence he has in hand." History records pictures of Assyrian captives being led out over crumbled walls, linked together by chains held in place with large hooks driven through the lips and noses of the vanquished. Nice people, those Assyrians, a bit violent when provoked. . and perhaps they are easily provoked. . .

Comes now Jesus, who sorrowfully announces that even though One who is greater than Jonah has come among the people, few are listening and the Roman Procurator has certainly not called for public fasting. Christ prophesies of his coming death, showing us the path of servant leadership, reconciling humanity to God through the Blood of the Cross. He condemns the cynicism and unbelief of the powerful.

Who knows when the Judgment of the Lord may come upon us? And what will be our reactions? Are we like Jonah, running away from God's call? Are we like the Ninevites, who, hearing God's word, turn from their wickedness and repent of their sins, putting away violence? Are we like the Romans of Jesus' time, proud and hard and contemptuous of all ragged prophets running around with prostitutes and tax collectors and preaching reconciliation?. Even if he was the Son of God, who cared? Shouldn't all prophets of peace and justice be crucified just on general principles as menaces to the "established" order? (Although some might say that the crucifixion of prophets of justice and peace is a sign of a decadent society and a declining civilization.)

If the seeds of war and hate and violence planted by Nineveh were to be its downfall, what does this suggest about putting our faith in the policies of war and hate and violence practiced by governments today? In the U.S., wealth continues to centralize, the top five percent make out like fat rat while the bottom 60% are stagnating or losing ground. Meanwhile, guns, ships, troops, bombs and missiles are gathering in the Persian Gulf and people talk about biological warfare in grim detail. Is this a stable foundation for future peace and harmony? In "40 days" (metaphorically speaking) does destruction loom for the mighty military and economic world empires of our own era?

In response to the Word of God brought to them by a foreigner, the Ninevites repented and changed their behavior. How can we bring the Word of God to the great urban cities and empires of our own day? What violence do we have in our hands that we need to put aside? And perhaps most importantly, what will we do if people listen to us and say, "OK, now what do we do?"

Prayer intentions:

+ For the Holy Father's prayer intentions for March, in particular, that human rights will be respected.

+ For those without work, that they will be able to find or create work.

Praxis today:

+ Wednesday is trash day. Pick up some trash in a public place and dispose of it properly. (Be prudent, wear gloves. Smokers, pick up cigarette butts.)

+ Continue to meditate on the social sins you are involved with and work on your lists.

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