Thursday, Ooctober 26, 2023: Seeking a Christ-like Response to the Ugliness of War
Seeking a Christ-like Response to the Ugliness of War
Reflection for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time by Franciscan Associate Gabriela Martinez
What a heavy few weeks this has been for the world, since the October 7 attack in Israel and ensuing events. Although the readings for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time were chosen long before this conflict began, the selections are providential and speak powerfully to the conflict in Israel and Palestine. Before you begin reading, I invite you to take a deep breath, reflect on your innermost thoughts and heartaches, and come to this reflective reading with the full breadth of your heart’s peace.
The first reading (Ex. 22:20-26) calls us to remember the divine humanity in each of us and our call, especially as Franciscans, to an empathetic response to suffering.
21 “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.
22 “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. 24 My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.
25 “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. 26 If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset,
God has uniquely created, shaped, and molded each of our souls; each one of infinitely more value than we can fathom. Nationality and religious tradition cannot take away from this value, especially to our Creator, but rather adds richness to our human dialogue and expands our minds to our anthropogenic global reality.
The second reading (1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10) from Paul reminds us of this globalized reality and how, in the present age, it is not just the people with whom we share walls or property lines, but people of every nation who are our neighbors.
5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9 for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
Here we speak of God as our “rock of refuge” and “deliverer from the coming wrath.” We must confide in God to guide us to empathy for our neighbors, and act in advance of these trials of “coming wrath,” seeing the humanity in each person to prevent further violence. As He delivered us to peace, let us be deliverers of that same peace to all our neighbors.
St Francis was called to rebuild the church, and for those who follow his example this means preserving the church’s foundation. The foundation, our community of global neighbors, is a diverse aggregate and sacred in its creation by our Father. We must preserve one another’s lives, no matter the soil on which our feet land, and mourn over the soil of the graves where those who have died to violence rest.
The gospel reading from Matthew (22:34-40) calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves with empathy and a commitment to a Christ-like response.
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Christ meets us where we are, even in the ugliness of war; He sees hope in us and our actions. May we imitate His overflowing love and undying humility in our work to seek peace in the world, wherever it may be needed, and to approach these situations with hearts full of His Word.
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