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Practicing Non-Violence

May 7, 2017 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

May 7, 2017
1 Peter 2:20b-25; John 10:1-10
Fr. George Smiga

You might think it easy to follow Jesus, until you try it. It might seem romantic to be a disciple until you realize what Jesus is asking of you. The author of the letter to Peter throws down a challenge to us in this regard in today’s second reading. He asks us to follow Jesus’ example of nonviolence. He says that when Jesus was insulted, he did not insult in return. When he suffered, he did not threaten those who caused him pain. Pope Francis echoes these words of First Peter this year in his address on the World Day of Peace, encouraging all Christians to cultivate nonviolence in their inner-most personal thoughts and values.

But being a nonviolent person is no easy thing in the world in which we live. Our society values power and aggression. The man who speaks the loudest, the woman who has the most influence, the country that has the greatest number of armaments is likely to be seen as the greatest, the most successful. We want to be sure that if we are threatened or attacked we can retaliate, over and over again. So Jesus’ call to nonviolence runs counter to all of these inclinations. And it’s no wonder that so many Christians ignore this teaching. They see it as outmoded and unrealistic, and therefore choose to concentrate on other things that Jesus has said. But presuming that we can take Jesus at his word, that he truly wants us to be nonviolent people, how can we follow his teaching?

Today’s letter from first Peter tells us that we can become followers of Jesus by practice. It says that Jesus left us an example to follow. The Greek word that we translate as “example” is actually very concrete. It is an written pattern that was used by those who were trying to learn how to write, a pattern that they would trace over and over again until, in time, they would be able to form the letters on their own. This is what we must do in following Jesus’ teaching of nonviolence. We must try over and over again to reject anger and revenge. We must try when we are successful and when we are not to replace hurt with forgiveness and misunderstanding with mercy. Always holding before us the pattern of Jesus who suffered for our sakes, we must be people who believe that our difficulties, our struggles are not wasted but are used for the sake of others and for building God’s kingdom.

Now, we should never choose suffering for suffering’s sake, but when we must suffer, patiently enduring our suffering is following Jesus’ example. It is not easy to follow Jesus, but by patiently tracing over and over again the curves of his love, we will be able to replace hatred with mercy, and become his disciples.

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