Wednesday, July 26, 2006

God's way of winning

Sandro Magister provides the full text of Pope Benedict's improvised speech given in a little church in northern Italy on Sunday. He first notes that as world leaders gather in Rome for a conference on the crisis in the Middl East, Benedict is signalling, with great creativity and originality, that the Church's role in politics is religious, focused on the Cross.
So Benedict XVI shows he has no doubts: the specific contribution that the Church can make to peace in the world is not political, but essentially religious. With the cross of Jesus at the center.

And in fact, during that afternoon – at his second brief address – he again insisted upon this alone: upon Jesus, and following him.
Magsiter then provides the text of the talk at Mass in that little church, with the reading being Eph. 2:13-18. As always, I find this Pontiff to be honest, simple and quite rivetting.
Just a quick word of meditation on the reading we have just listened to. What is striking, against the background of the dramatic situation in the Middle East, is the beauty of the vision illustrated by the apostle Paul: Christ is our peace. He has reconciled us with one another, Jews and gentiles, uniting them in his body. He overcame enmity in his body, upon the cross. With his death he has overcome enmity, and has united us all in his peace.

But what strikes us even more than the beauty of this vision is its contrast with the reality we experience and see. And we can do nothing, at first, but say to the Lord: “But Lord, what does your apostle say to us – ‘We are reconciled’?” We see in reality that we are not reconciled... There is still war among Christians, Muslims, and Jews; and there are others who foment war and are still full of enmity and violence. Where is the efficacy of your sacrifice? Where in history is this peace of which your apostle speaks?

We human beings cannot solve the mystery of history, the mystery of human freedom to say “no” to God’s peace. We cannot solve the entire mystery of the revelation of the God-man, of his activity and our response. We must accept the mystery. But there are elements of an answer that the Lord gives to us.
The Lord has triumphed upon the cross. He did not triumph with a new empire, with a power greater than the others and capable of destroying them; he triumphed, not in a human way, as we would imagine, with an empire more powerful than the other. He triumphed with a love capable of reaching even to death. This is God’s new way of winning: he does not oppose violence with a stronger form of violence. He opposes violence with its exact opposite: love to the very end, his cross. This is God’s humble way of winning: with his love – and this is the only way it is possible – he puts a limit on violence. This is a way of winning that seems very slow to us, but it is the real way to overcome evil, to overcome violence, and we must entrust ourselves to this divine way of winning.
Wow. It seems almost impossible. I can hear the echo of those tough words from the Sermon on the Mount, "Do not resist evil ..." I wonder if one can really respond to the destruction of human life, of one's loved ones, in this way, whatever the concrete manifestation of this in any specific situation might be.
So let’s go back to the starting point. What we can do is give the witness of love, the witness of faith; and above all, raise a cry to God: we can pray! We are certain that our Father hears the cry of his children. At the Mass, preparing for holy communion, to receive the Body of Christ who unites us, we pray with the Church: “Deliver us, O Lord, from all evil, and grant us peace in our day.” Let this be our prayer in this moment: “Deliver us from all evil, and give us peace.” Not tomorrow or the next day: give us peace, Lord, today! Amen.
Read the whole thing! [Can anyone not think of the powerful witness of the Monks of Tibhirine? Fr Joseph Komonchak gives the full text of the famous testament of Dom Chretienne at dotCommonweal last week.]

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