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7th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A 2011 Mt. 5:38-48

1. One evening recently innocent people were enjoying a night out with friends in a packed café.

2. A man walked in and opened fire. No sooner had he left and the panicked survivors called the police, than he entered another café, and fired again.

3. The police traced his car,

a. determined where he lived

b. but by the time they arrived, it was too late;

i. the murderer had shot himself, and his elderly mother.

4. Stories like this sound like they were ripped from the pages of a Stephen King novel;

a. but actually, they were the topic of the nightly news just a few days ago.

b. All of it taking place in the town of Hanau,

i. just outside of Frankfurt, Germany.

5. That things like this happen is no surprise; not anymore.

6. I suppose it is also no surprise what the reaction was; we see it all the time:

a. crowds with candles, makeshift altars to the victims,

b. politicians before microphones,

i. calling for justice

ii. pledging that such atrocities will not happen again.

iii. And proclaiming that violence is not the way our democratic values and western societies respond to such atrocities.

7. For we lionize great nonviolent revolutionaries such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King,

8. We celebrate nonviolent revolutions

a. as in South Africa

i. Which threw off Apartheid at the ballot box rather than the battlefield,

b. or the former East Germany and the other countries of the Eastern Block,

i. Which shed Communism and Soviet control back in the 1980’s

ii. as easily as one sheds a winter coat once spring has come.

9. We like to believe these victories are expressions of our democratic values and our western ideas.

10. And yet,

a. It is all too easy for us to forget that increasingly these acts of violence

i. are not committed by outsiders or foreigners, by “them” like on 9/11– but by “us”.

b. It is all too easy for us to forget the violence that we in the West visit on others,

i. Because they do not share our values

ii. And thus, do not merit being counted as one of “us”.

c. And as we continue to secularize our society

i. Many Believing that this violence stems from religion

11. It is all too easy to forget the fact that in the west the tradition of nonviolence finds its roots,

a. not so much in, a young black preacher named King

b. or even a British – educated Hindu like Gandhi,

12. but in a first century Jew named Jesus living in the “Middle East”

a. long before it was in the middle of anything.

b. Save in the middle of a period of oppression

i. unlike anything the Jewish people had ever experienced.

c. The Romans respected Jewish religion;

i. but everything else, culture, land ownership, the economy,

ii. all of it was being swept away by Roman development and, if you will gentrification.

13. The reason why Jesus’ parables and stories

a. are so filled with the poor, widows, the day laborers and the unemployed,

b. is because he was preaching to a country filled with such people

i. who had lost their land, their livelihood, and their way of life to foreigners.

14. And thus it was precisely to a crowd of such people,

a. who evidently had nothing better to do

b. than to sit around and listen to Jesus in the middle of the day, and resent the people who had done such things to them,

15. That Jesus said,

a. “You have heard it said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

b. But I say to you offer no resistance to one who is evil.

c. You have heard it said You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy

d. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

16. Now of course by this point in the Sermon on the Mount they probably had thought that they had heard everything. Remember last week?

a. Jesus had just told them that when they get angry they kill;

b. when they lust they commit adultery,

c. when they swear to tell the truth they are actually lying.

17. These things may have seemed impossible to do,

a. but at least they were directed at people we associate with,

i. our families friends neighbors . . . US.

b. But now Jesus was talking about loving strangers, foreigners, the oppressors . . . THEM.

18. It is easy to imagine his listeners’ reactions;

a. For imagine how we would have reacted

i. If after Pearl Harbor we were told to put up no resistance

b. Remember how we did react after September 11th

i. When a few lone voices questioned our rush to war

c. Look around and see how we do react whenever we see latinos working, Muslims praying,

i. or homeless people begging in the streets of OUR fair city.

19. It is easy to understand why Jesus was killed;

a. Because to tell your people to love your enemy,

b. to put up no resistance to them

c. and to actually give more than they demand, isn’t just foolish - it is simply treason.

20. And sadly unless we look at Jesus and what happens to him,

21. it is all too easy to forget,

a. That for every South Africa or Berlin

i. there are countless Tiananmen Squares.

22. There is no guarantee

a. that our western values of nonviolence and democracy will prevail,

i. even if we believe that they come from Jesus.

23. But then,

a. Jesus does not demand

i. that we love our enemies

ii. in order to advocate democracy, non violence and “western values”.

24. He demands that we treat each other that way,

25. because that is how God treats us.

a. God, who according to Jewish theology is so exalted and different from us

i. that to utter the divine name is a sin and to see God’s face is to die,

1. Is, for Jesus, the loving Heavenly Father,

2. And is for the Church, Jesus himself.

b. God, who makes no distinction between Roman and Jew, just or unjust, us or them

i. Is the one who acts with generosity and love.

c. God, who, even when we hate,

i. even when we treat the son of God as a traitor

ii. and hang him on a cross and kill him.

d. Is the one who rises from the dead,

i. Generously offering forgiveness, peace and the chance to begin again.

26. We never understand this deeper dimension to Jesus’ message;

a. that is why his radical call to love our enemies so often gets reduced to nonviolent resistance.

27. We treat him as if he were offering us a lesson in politics

28. But he is not; He is preaching the kingdom of God;

a. and its politics are far more profound.

29. While I was preparing for this homily

a. I did some reading about that great vindication of nonviolent resistance,

b. the fall of the Berlin wall.

30. In an interview with one of the East German Border police,

a. when asked why they did not respond with violence

b. when they saw the waves of marchers the night the Wall fell,

i. The guard simply replied, “We did not expect flowers and candles”.

31. Of course they didn’t;

a. they expected subversives, supported and egged on by western imperialists;

b. they expected enemies of socialism;

c. they expected capitalist pigs.

d. They expected them.

32. But those flowers and candles opened their eyes and gave them ears to hear,

a. so that for a brief moment they saw these people as their neighbors and friends, family members and fellow socialists.

b. And thus they couldn’t fire on them;

c. for how do you fire on yourself?

33. They saw them, as Jesus would have us see each other and God sees us all;

34. In his radical words God comes bearing candles and flowers, challenging us to see things differently.

a. Accept the challenge: the next time you see a Mexican working,

i. Treat her as you would a citizen rather than a criminal.

b. The next time you see a Muslim praying

i. see him as a person of faith rather than a foreign terrorist.

c. The next time you see a homeless man begging

i. ask yourself what difference it would make to you

1. if they were your friends, your neighbors or members of your family.

ii. Because they are. We just don’t see it yet.

35. Were we to, and were we to see to it, that more and more saw it too,

36. I cannot help but think that atrocities such as the one we saw in Germany this past week, and have seen again and again and again through out history would cease.

a. For when we do, we glimpse the world the way God sees it;

i. we glimpse the kingdom, and for that moment,

ii. the Father’s perfect love,

iii. which does not see the world as divided into us and them, makes us perfect too.

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