When I first had the idea of doing a New Evangelizers blog series using Jesus and the Holy Family as examples to fight the Five Wounds of Secularization (Busyness, Consumerism/Materialism, Violence/Revenge, Individualism, and Entitlement), I thought Violence/Revenge would be the easy one. I thought it would be a no-brainer, actually.
I haven’t been in a fist fight in ages. I don’t recall a sleepless night in recent memory in which I plotted revenge for some personal wrong which fell upon me. Fine and dandy, then I’ll find a couple Bible quotes about turning the other cheek, loving one another, and I’m done with this month’s post.
Nope. A funny thing happened on the way to my cut-and-dried post on violence and revenge. I was derailed on Palm Sunday.
What happened? Did I split my trousers on the procession into Mass? Did I take an inadvertent palm point to the eye? Did someone take my seat in the back row? None of the above occurred.
The Passion is what happened. It rocked my definition of violence and revenge and brought to light how they get in the way of my relationship with God.
The Passion and death of Christ is a violent story. Christ is arrested, beaten, and executed in the most painful and humiliating way possible. The violence on that level has always stood out. It was necessary for Jesus to fulfill the prophecies and deliver the promise of hope and everlasting life to us.
But, for some reason, perhaps because of the mindset of writing this blog post, a new level of violence/revenge emerged from the latest readings of Palm Sunday and Good Friday. The danger which exists in the violence of hate, the violence of the mob, and the violence of the vengeful is on vivid display in the crowd. I realized the Passion may be more valuable as a guide on this issue of violence than I previously thought.
The religious establishment turned their violence toward Jesus using words. They felt the threat to their status quo and undermined the very idea of the Messiah through a subversion of public thought. The people turned on a dime and went from praising the Messiah to shouting, “Crucify him!” over and over at the top of their lungs. That is violence. That is the violence of hate. Hate through word and deed is violent, even when it is done in the name of goodness and righteousness.
I was reminded of a column in our diocesan newspaper a couple years ago. The author wrote that a reaction with venom and hate can be just as bad as the offense which triggered it. He told the story of his visit with his family to a professional baseball game. There were some questionable ladies outside the stadium handing out advertisements to a questionable night club in the area. He said a group of good and righteous women began screaming a litany of hate toward the objectionable women, causing an ugly scene where neither party appeared particularly Christian. For the group of upright women, their message was lost in the violence and hate of their delivery.
I am not going to let hate of an issue or a person result in a violent or vengeful reaction. I will think of the grace in which Mary and Joseph handled their difficulties and try my best to model Christ, even when it’s hard.
Be righteous without flaunting righteousness. Disagree without destroying. Show and teach Catholic values, don’t screech them. Take a deep breath and follow the Prince of Peace.
Hate breeds hate. Violence breeds violence. Vengeance breeds vengeance.
Pray for light. Pray for goodness. Pray for peace.
Get behind me, Satan!
Copyright © 2013, Mike Hays