(Belated) New Year’s Reflection
January 1, 2017 + Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God
“The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!” (Numbers 6:24-26)
This New Year’s blessing taken from the first reading for the feast day offers a perfect segue to speak about the 50th anniversary of the World Day of Peace. And my reflection won’t be very pious or sweet. It’s 2017, for goodness’ sake.
Is peace a pipedream of hippies dancing and singing “Why Can’t We be Friends?” My generation of Boomers reacted to the restrictive culture of our forebears by preaching peace and freedom. We believed our own heady exuberance would make it so. Protesting the Viet Nam war uncovered divisions that, at this point, prove to be more adamant and painful than ever. It proved to be a faux peace. Global divisions which surfaced since 9/11 have escalated to new heights during the past several years. It can seem that that peace is just a dream today, given the factors of fear, anger, and unresolved grief that drive animosity. Cynical? Realistic?
So, what does God have to work with? My ideologically-compatible-group looks down on yours. Our heads are sound-proofed against hearing anything from outside our preferred huddle. Our heightened state of animus which seems to have ruled out bridge-building between contentious factions. How odd that everyone who agrees with me is right and everyone who agrees with you is wrong! It’s simple math.
However, Pope Francis reminds us:
Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution’”. The Gospel command to love your enemies (Luke 6:27) “is rightly considered the magna carta of Christian nonviolence. It does not consist in succumbing to evil…, but in responding to evil with good (Romans 12:17-21), and thereby breaking the chain of injustice”.
- This does create intense dissonance for me, anyway. Love whom? Respond to evil with what? Really, since I’m right, I deserve to enjoy the luxury of punishing those who are wrong, right? It’s only fair. So, why does the Pope have to bring in Jesus? He just messes things up. I thought he was supposed to set things in order, get people in line. Get them in line, O God!
I propose that, as of January 1, 2017, we all will have 364 days to ponder this conundrum, to sit with our internal dissonance: Love my enemy? Keep punishing my enemies? And perhaps deal with whatever drives us all to intensify divisions.
Happy New Year. — Roc O’Connor, SJ