Onward to day two of the Catholic Church's special week of prayer for unity! In case you were as puzzled as me about the reference to Korea in Day One, the readings/commentary for this year's octave on Christian Unity were prepared by Church leaders in Korea. Apparently these prayer weeks have been going on since 1966 and since we are Catholics, it would follow that we would like to give multiple nations a voice. I digress...This brief reference from yesterday's reading is underscored by even more serious reflections that are somewhat specifically based on Korea, as the readings are focused on Christians facing war and violence.
While a mere member of the USA, I think that the sufferings and strife of Korea are especially indicative of the consequences of disunity on a political and spiritual plane, so considering them in particular and in general is a good thing in my book.
Day 2 Christians face to face with war and violence “that they may become one in your hand”
Is 2: 1-4 They shall no longer learn war
This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come, The mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say: "Come, let us climb the LORD'S mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, That he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths." For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.
Ps 74: 18-23 Do not forget the life of your poor for ever
Remember how the enemy has jeered, O LORD, how a foolish people has reviled your name.
Do not surrender to beasts those who praise you; do not forget forever the life of your afflicted.
Look to your covenant, for the land is filled with gloom; the pastures, with violence.
Let not the oppressed turn back in shame; may the poor and needy praise your name.
Arise, God, defend your cause; remember the constant jeers of the fools.
Do not ignore the clamor of your foes, the unceasing uproar of your enemies.
I Pet 2: 21-25 His wounds have healed you
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.
"He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."
When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly.
He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
Mt 5: 38-48 Pray for those who persecute you
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile, 26 go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.
War and violence are still major obstacles to that unity willed by God for humanity. In the last analysis, war and violence are the result of unhealed division which exists inside ourselves, and of the human arrogance which prevents us from recovering the real foundation of our existence.
Korean Christians long to put an end to more than 50 years of separation between North Korea and South Korea and to see peace established elsewhere in the world. The instability which prevails in the Korean peninsula represents not only the pain of the one remaining nation in the world which is still divided; it also symbolises the mechanisms of division, hostility and vengeance which plague humanity.
What can bring an end to this cycle of war and violence? Jesus shows us the power which can stop the vicious circle of violence and injustice in even the most brutal of situations. To his disciples, who react to violence and rage according to the ways of the world, paradoxically he teaches the renunciation of violence (Mt 26: 51-52).
Jesus reveals the truth about human violence. Faithful to the Father, he dies on the cross to save us from sin and death. The cross reveals the paradox and the conflict inherent in human nature. Jesus’ violent death marks the beginning of a new creation which nails human sin, violence and war to this very cross.
Jesus Christ teaches a non-violence based on more than humanism. He teaches the reestablishment of God’s creation, and hope and faith in the final coming of a new heaven and a new earth. This hope, founded on Jesus’ ultimate victory over death on the cross, encourages us to persevere in the search for Christian unity and in the struggle against all forms of war and violence.
Lord, who gave yourself on the cross for the unity of all humankind, we offer up to you our human nature marred by egoism, arrogance, vanity and anger. Lord, do not abandon the oppressed who suffer from all sorts of violence, anger and hatred, victims of erroneous beliefs and conflicting ideologies. Lord, reach out to us with compassion and take care of your people, so that we may enjoy the peace and joy integral to the order of your creation. Lord, may all Christians work together to bring about your justice, rather than ours. Give us the courage to help others to bear their cross, rather than putting our own on their shoulders. Lord, teach us the wisdom to treat our enemies with love instead of hatred. Amen.