Violence is very much a part of everyday life the world over. Despite Jesus’ teaching to the contrary in Sunday’s Gospel, there is very much a sense of an eye-for-an-eye retaliation. Oftentimes, there is massive retaliation all out of proportion to the original act(s) of violence.
Jesus advocates non-violent reactions to hurt and wrong. Many folks have a hard time with that because it goes against basic human instincts. But that’s the point: violence involves human instincts – it’s an instantaneous, thoughtless reaction. Non-violence requires patience, thoughtfulness and a deep commitment to Gospel values. By far and away, non-violence is the more courageous reaction.
But does it work? Well, most recently Europe and the USA were rattling missiles against Syria for the latter country’s alleged use of chemical weapons against its own citizens. Pope Francis called for a worldwide day of prayer and fasting as a response to the imminent violent attacks. Did it work … well … the results speak for themselves.
The recently-deceased Nelson Mandela is deeply honored and revered because of the non-violent way he helped end apartheid in South Africa. Lech Walesa led a coalition of shipyard workers in a non-violent revolution in Poland that ended up in the dissolution of the Iron Curtain. In the Middle East peaceful protests overthrew the repressive governments of Tunisia and Egypt. I personally have been wondering if there will come a day in the not-too-distant future when there will be some kind of non-violent mass protest in the USA against the injustices perpetrated by income inequality. The Occupy Wall Street protest of a couple years ago comes to mind.
Violence is playing with fire and one ends up being destroyed. Non-violence is taking the same fire of anger and taming it so that it warms and lights the way to peace.
Let peace begin with me, as the song goes!!!
Fr. Herb, C.S.C.