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.
On the Road to Peace
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.
Jim Douglass is one of the world's great teachers, theologians and practitioners of Christian nonviolence. I regularly return for inspiration to his classic works The Nonviolent Cross, Resistance and Contemplation and Lightning East to West, which have been recently republished by wipfandstock.com. Based at Mary's House Catholic Worker in Birmingham, Ala., Jim spent the last two decades completing his groundbreaking work, JFK and the Unspeakable, which detailed the forces which aligned to kill President John F. Kennedy in order to stop his work for peace and disarmament.
One of the nation's sharpest, clearest and brightest voices for justice and peace is Loyola University-New Orleans law professor Bill Quigley, who is also associate director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Besides teaching, Bill volunteers with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the Bureau de Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in Port au Prince as well as with disenfranchised people in New Orleans and anti-war activists on trial, such as the recent Creech 14 trial in Las Vegas.
On Sept. 1, 1987, one of the most dedicated peace activists in the nation sat down with friends on the train tracks outside the Concord Naval Weapons Station near the Bay Area in California to block a U.S. Navy Munitions train loaded with weapons bound for Nicaragua and El Salvador.
Last summer, 85-year-old Mennonite peace activist Peter Ediger decided to take his passion for peace to the churches in Las Vegas, where he lives. Peter works for Pace e Bene, the Franciscan nonviolence program. Like many of us, he's concerned that the churches in the United States are ignoring, if not blatantly rejecting, the nonviolence of Jesus. So he wrote to area churches and announced that he would visit a different church every Sunday morning, keep vigil outside as parishioners entered and then join their worship service. During his vigil, he would hold up a large sign asking them about Jesus' Sermon on the Mount commandment, "Love your enemies."
To mark Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, I've been reflecting on the principles of nonviolence that he learned during the historic yearlong bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala.
After Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus, broke the segregation law and was arrested on Dec. 1, 1955, the African-American leadership in Montgomery famously chose young Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to lead their campaign.