"If you want to be hopeful, you have to do hopeful things." That's the advice of Daniel Berrigan. He's spent his life doing hopeful things for peace and justice, and has become a source of hope for many. As for me, I've tried to do hopeful things, but I find it usually just brings me to the edge of hope. Sometimes I can almost taste hope, but more often than not, it's just outside my reach. But that's OK. Hope, I'm learning, is a journey. Often, it demands the risk of coming close to despair. That's why hope requires steadfast action. For Easter people stuck in a Good Friday world, active hope is a necessity. It's a stubborn way of life. Hope is daily choice.
On the Road to Peace
On the Road to Peace is a column on nonviolence from Jesuit Fr. John Dear, a peace activist and the author of more than 20 books.
Ana Carrigan and Juliet Weber have just released Monseñor: The Last Journey of Oscar Romero, an astonishing DVD documentary about martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. Thirty-two years after his assassination, one would presume that there was no footage and that no such film would ever appear. But here he is, gentle and humble -- and larger than life. We see Romero walking among the villagers, listening to the grieving poor and denouncing injustice from the pulpit. After all these years, what a gift!
At an Easter service in Texas on Sunday, football star Tim Tebow called Easter "our Super Bowl." Well, sorry, Tim, but I think the resurrection of the nonviolent Jesus is beyond any football analogy. During my speaking tour about my new book Lazarus, Come Forth!, I've been talking about resurrection in terms of active nonviolence.
For me, it means death does not get the last word, that from now on, we do not cooperate with death and its analogies, that we are called to be people of loving nonviolence. Our task is to abolish poverty, war, executions, nuclear weapons and violence if we want to live in Christ's resurrection gift of peace. Going to the Super Bowl is easy compared to the Easter struggle for justice and disarmament.
This Easter, I found myself pondering Mark's account of the resurrection. His version -- the earliest and shortest of the four Gospel versions -- does not feature the risen Jesus. He never appears. Instead, a youth dressed in white -- the clothing of martyrs -- commands the women to tell the men to return to Galilee, where they will see the risen Jesus. They run away terrified.
On Good Friday, we stand with the nonviolent Jesus as he suffers torture and execution at the hands of the empire, yet remains centered in the God of love, forgiving and nonviolent to the end. Gandhi said that in his death, Jesus practiced perfect nonviolence. He teaches us not only how to suffer and die, but becomes a spiritual explosion of disarming love that is still transforming us all. This Holy Week, we might listen to the words of Jesus from the cross, as offered in the four Gospels, for clues about following him faithfully on the way of nonviolence in pursuit of justice and peace. Here are the famous seven last sayings of the crucified, nonviolent Jesus.
After Jesus offers the bread and cup as his body and blood in a new covenant of nonviolence in the upper room during the Holy Thursday Passover meal, he quietly announces that one of the 12 will betray him. He can see the handwriting on the wall. The disciples immediately deny that they would do such a thing -- and then they break into a nasty fight about which one of them is the greatest. Jesus has only hours left to live, but these arrogant, ignorant churchmen ignore his sufferings and focus on themselves instead. Not much has changed 2,000 years later. Betrayal, denial, argument and abandonment of Jesus seem to be the norm.
As we approach Holy Week, it's helpful to ponder the passion, arrest and death of the nonviolent Jesus, in light of our own tumultuous times and personal journeys. This week, I'll reflect on his Eucharistic offering; next week, his betrayal; and the following week, his death. In light of his teachings of peace, love and compassion, the Last Supper is certainly rich and hopeful, yet profoundly sad and mysterious. That whole week is filled with drama, tension and danger as the authorities stand on the lookout to arrest and kill Jesus.
It's only in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Judas and the Roman soldiers arrive to arrest Jesus, that the early community -- the disciples of men and women, the first church -- finally come to understand Jesus. There they realize just how serious Jesus is about life-giving nonviolence. Lent invites us to come to the same realization, but unlike the disciples, to stay the course of nonviolence with Jesus, come what may.
Under the cover of night, in the first act of violence by a disciple, Judas kisses Jesus and betrays him, and the soldiers move in for the arrest. In the second act of violence by a disciple of Jesus, Peter himself takes out a sword, strikes at a soldier and cuts off his ear. Jesus will have none of it.
"Put back your sword, for those who take up the sword will surely perish by the sword." These are the last words of Jesus to the church before he was executed, and it's the first time they recognize the depth of his nonviolence. What do they do? They all run away.
Here's Matthew's version:
I consider Jeff Dietrich one of the best spiritual writers in the nation as well as one of our most faithful Christian witnesses. Alas, too few know him or read his work. For 40 years, he has lived at the Los Angeles Catholic Worker and edited their newspaper, The Catholic Agitator, which I consider to be one of the best Christian publications in the nation.
Last Friday afternoon, I joined 30 friends for a peace vigil on Douglas Street in Los Angeles outside the Space and Missile Systems Center at the El Segundo Air Force Base, right next to the L.A. airport. We were protesting the midnight launch of a first-strike, nuclear capable ICBM Minuteman III missile aimed for the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, 4,200 miles away. Surrounded by the mammoth office buildings of Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northup Grumman, the U.S. Air Force and other "corporations of death," we held signs and banners, shared our hopes and sang songs of peace and life.
The missile went off around 2 a.m. Saturday as part of the decades-long ICBM Minuteman III testing program at Vandenberg Air Force Base. This latest ICBM test launch had a dummy warhead, but the 450 land-based ICBMs are built to carry thermonuclear warheads designed to destroy large civilian populations. Once launched, even if by accident, they can't be called back. Each test costs at least $20 million.
I'm traveling in California for two weeks, giving talks on my new book, Lazarus, Come Forth!, and had the chance to spend an afternoon recently with my friend Anne Symens-Bucher to see for myself the new community she and her family have created in Oakland. The mother of five, a lifelong peace activist and secular Franciscan, Anne and her husband, Terry, recently founded "Canticle Farm," a peace and nonviolence community right smack-dab in inner-city Oakland. I was impressed and inspired by this bold, hopeful move.