I’ve recently picked up again the book Persistent Peaceby John Dear, SJ (Jesuit Priest). I started reading it last summer before my trip to Australia and never got back into it upon my return – until now. If you aren’t familiar with John Dear’s writings, he comes at faith and theology from a nonviolent, liberation perspective. He has spent his entire life “ordained for peace;” working on behalf of victims of war, standing against the death penalty, challenging the government to seek peace and not kill. Fr. Dear has been arrested numerous times – staging sit-ins at the pentagon, facilitating civil disobedience at police stations and elected officials’ offices, standing in the way of the “industrial military complex” at every juncture he could. If this isn’t true faith and the living out of Gospel values I am not sure what is. If this isn’t a “faith the does justice” then I haven’t seen faith lately. I’ve been (re)inspired!
As I sat reading this morning on the shuttle downtown, I couldn’t help but think of this book’s timely invitation. In about a week, we usher in the season of Lent, a time of introspection, prayer, ritual, and a remembrance of Christ’s life and mission, death and significance, and re-appropriating such in our lives today. Jesus himself, a victim of murder and capital punishment, sought a new world order, one built on peace and love. Peering out the window to cars rushing by, several questions arose for me:
Is Dear’s spiritual memoir an invitation to look at the peaceful movements (and non-peaceful movements) in my life? Is picking up the book again calling me to look at the structures and systems that perpetuate violence? And finally, what about inner violence and destruction – the kind I strap on myself and is all too present in the hearts of many?
This would be quite the Lenten undertaking! I’m aware that it is not in the answers to these questions that I will find peace. Instead, in trying to be peace and yearn for peace, I am made peaceful.
I chuckled this morning when I read Dear describe the Catholic Church hierarchy’s often sluggish response to issues of war and peace.
“One friend noted that if the United States had dropped eighty thousand tons of condoms on Iraq, the bishops would have denounced it and done civil disobedience at the White House. Evidently, bombs did not hold the same priority” (Dear, 2008, p. 213).
As we gear up for another Lenten journey, may God give us the wisdom and foresight to focus on what really matters! In the meantime, I want to make a special effort to pray for all those affected by war and violence in our world today. May they be inspired by a persistence peace!
Dear, J. (2008). A persistent peace: One man’s struggle for a nonviolent world. Chicago: Loyola Press.