In May 1983 and May 1985, I attended Sojourners' "Peace Pentecost" rallies in Washington, D.C. -- prayer services and inspiring speakers and nonviolent demonstrations against war and injustice. Those were some of the most electrifying Pentecost experiences of my life. The police hauled hundreds away as we proclaimed God's reign of peace. I recall those days as we enter another Pentecost season, and wonder, how do we live out the drama of Pentecost today?
On the Road to Peace
"The trouble with the Catholic Worker," Dorothy Day writes in her newly published diaries, The Duty of Delight, "is that one is so busy living that there is not time to write about it." She wrote a dozen books, nevertheless, and a monthly column for nearly five decades. Plus thousands of speeches and over a thousand pages of journal entries, which we can now read for the first time.
This week, Orbis Books publishes one of its most significant books in years, a labor of some 15 years work by Jim Douglass. JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters tells the painful, hopeful story of John F. Kennedy's efforts to save us from nuclear war, his decision to pull out troops from Vietnam, and his call for nuclear disarmament, a vision that animated shadowy forces in the U.S. government to do away with him and his vision.
Last week, I drove up the mountain to the town of Los Alamos, birthplace of the bomb, along Trinity Drive past Oppenheimer Road near the National Nuclear Weapons Labs. I was there for a very unusual speaking invitation -- to talk about peace and disarmament to a group of students at Los Alamos High School. I approached the doors with a vague sense of dread, but left exhilarated. These bright young students gave me hope.
"We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever-widening circle will reach around the world," wrote Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement. On May 1, the Catholic Worker celebrates its 75th birthday, and to mark the occasion, Marquette University Press will publish Dorothy Day's diaries, The Duty of Delight. Meanwhile, a beautiful new DVD documentary, "Don't Call Me a Saint," has been released, offering rare interviews and footage of the heroic woman whose reach has indeed embraced the world.
There they are, two crestfallen disciples after Jesus' horrific torture and execution. Fearful and grief-stricken, they're clearing out of Jerusalem and drifting toward Emmaus, none of which should bring the reader any measure of surprise. But then the story takes a turn. Jesus (his identity veiled) sidles up to the two and asks, "What are you discussing as you walk along?" They stop and turn. "Are you the only person in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened in these last days?" The risen Jesus then asks one of the most astonishing questions of the Bible: "What things?"
It was six o'clock on April 5,1968, a Friday morning. My mother came into my room, shook me awake and said, "John, Martin Luther King has been killed. You have to get up." I was eight years old.
That weekend 40 years ago, the networks broadcast his story and little else. And all of us, my parents and brothers, took in all the reports about his life and work and campaigns to abolish racism, poverty and war. Over and over they played his famous speeches; they discussed his vision of nonviolence.
After pondering the arrest, trial, torture and execution of Jesus this past Holy Week, and the ongoing crucifixion of Christ in the world's poor, in the people of Iraq, in our torture chambers, death rows and nuclear silos, I find the Easter texts announcing the resurrection of the nonviolent Jesus full of amazing hope and boundless new energy. In particular, I love that beautiful sentence from John 21, describing one of those first Easter encounters, a kind of Zen scene of perfect mindfulness that opens up new peace and life within us: "There on the shore stood Jesus, and it was morning."
Last week, after lectures at the Thomas Merton Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, and in Victoria and Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island, I caught the early morning ferry back to Tsawwassen and Vancouver. That trip is one of the most magical rides in the world. I left the Sydney port at dark and sailed the nearly two hours past the green forests of the Swartz Bay islands, beside seals, otters, dolphins and countless gulls. In the morning twilight I could see the distant, majestic, snow-covered Rockies. There, alone on the ship's top deck, amidst the healing peace of the natural world, I pondered the ancient invitation of Holy Week: to enter the Paschal Mystery of Jesus.
The story of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, a story of death and despair, life and hope, not only climaxes John's Gospel (11:1-45, from last Sunday) before the last supper and death of Jesus, it sums up the work of God in the world -- to liberate humanity from the culture of death and call us forth into the new life of nonviolent love and resurrection peace.