Sunday, February 3, 2008

The violent bear it away, along with the passive aggressive

(Photograph from Time on-line)
As I was reflecting this morning, I was struck by how weird it is that Benazir Bhutto, a martyr for her people and for democracy, as were her father and brother, was killed between the Feasts of St. Stephen and the Holy Innocents. It is not my purpose to lionize her. No doubt, her two times as Prime Minister had their difficulties, with her second term ending in her exile amidst charges of corruption, which were never proven nor completely dispelled. It also struck me that earlier this year another central Asian voice of freedom and democracy, that of the Armenian journalist in Turkey, Hrant Dink, was silenced by the bullet of a gunman, as was Fr. Andrea Santoro, priest in Trabzon, Turkey.

One of the most ambiguous sayings of Jesus is found in St. Matthew's Gospel, chapter eleven, verse twelve, which reads, in the Douay-Rheims version, which is a translation of the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the sacred scriptures, "And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away". Of course, there is the great Flannery O'Connor novel, published in 1960, the title of which is taken from this verse of scripture: The Violent Bear It Away. Of course, the violent bore our Lord away, to the Cross, but love triumphed over hate, just as it did in the case of St. Stephen, who prayed as the stones rained down upon him, sticking with the Douay-Rheims: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying: Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep in the Lord" (Acts 7,58-9).

Let us pray as we approach the New Year, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, the World Day of Peace, that love will conquer hate in Turkey, in Iraq, in the Holy Land, in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, and everywhere that violence seems to prevail. I think the Holy Father proved a bit prophetic in his Urbi et Orbi address on Christmas Day, in which he said: "On this day of peace, my thoughts turn especially to those places where the grim sound of arms continues to reverberate; to the tortured regions of Darfur, Somalia, the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia; to the whole of the Middle East –especially Iraq, Lebanon and the Holy Land; to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, to the Balkans and to many other crisis situations that unfortunately are frequently forgotten". During a time in which our country seems to have been born away by the violent, who are not shy about invoking the Prince of Peace, let us pray and work this presidential election year for a more just and peaceful nation, one about which we can feel good, one in which we do not seek to impose our will on others by force of violence, but to propose the truth by example.

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