Whoever serves me must follow me, says the Lord; and where I am, there also will my servant be.
Love is the heart of nonviolence
In today’s first reading from Jeremiah we hear that God wants a “new covenant” with us human beings. The old covenant bond between God and people, with laws carved in stone, had not worked out well. The Lord offers to forgive and forget our failings and to build a more intimate relationship, with His laws written upon our hearts.
“Let us look at our hearts,” Maryknoll Sister Connie Krautkremer says. “A healthy heart is strong and it is soft. Because of its ability to adapt to changing circumstances, it beats sometimes fast, sometimes more slowly. Our lives depend on that flexible faithfulness. So, how is a law in my heart different from one carved in stone? We responsibly obey just laws that govern our lives. But more is expected from a law that is ruled by the heart. Not just obedience, but also compassion and forgiveness are required of us. These are a lot more demanding than simply following a rule.”
In the gospel of John, Jesus uses a grain of wheat to teach about obedience. The seed must fall into the ground and die in order to produce more seeds – food in abundance. This means dying to self, letting go of being so sure I am always right, that my way is the best way. Instead we are to be ready and willing to forgive and ask forgiveness. Our hearts are softened when we forgive, and, at the same time, the heart must be soft in order to forgive.”
The fifth of the six principles of nonviolence defined by Dr King is “Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.” Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative. "The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent; he also refuses to hate him. At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love, Dr. King wrote in Stride Toward Freedom.
“The nonviolent resister would contend that in the struggle for human dignity, the oppressed people of the world must not succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter or indulging in hate campaigns. To retaliate in kind would do nothing but intensify the existence of hate in the universe.”
Cutting off the chain of hate "can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives." Love means "understanding, redemptive goodwill toward all people."
For King, this love is the power of God working within us, explains William D. Watley in Roots of Resistance: The Nonviolent Ethic of Martin Luther King, Jr. That is why King could exhort us to the highest possible, unconditional, universal, all-encompassing love. King the preacher believed God worked through us when we used the weapon of nonviolent love.
Questions for Reflection
Where have you seen unselfish and creative nonviolent love? How does this make you feel?
Like the grain of wheat, what in your life must die so that “food of abundance” may grow?
Holy Spirit of Life!
Come down into our hearts,
that we may live.
Descend into emptiness,
may be filled.
Descend into the dust,
that the dust may flower.
Descend into the dark,
that the light may shine in the darkness.
Be born in us,
Take our flesh and blood,
and give us your humanity;
take our eyes, and give us your vision;
take our minds, and give us your pure thought;
take our feet and set them in your path;
take our hands,
and fold them in your prayer;
take our hearts
and give them your will to love.
– Two prayers by Caryll Houselander included in The Spiritual Path of Caryll Houselander by Joyce Kemp.
Pope Francis says in his 2017 World Day of Peace message that Jesus offers the Beatitudes as a “manual” for peacemaking. Take time for meditation on the Beatitudes. You may want to use this guide from the Archdiocese of Melbourne. http://bit.ly/BlessedAreYouMeditations
Name an opportunity you have in your church or community to be a peacemaker.
Sign up for the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns listserv, to receive our newsletter and action alerts about issues of peace and justice.
A Maryknoll Missioner says...
“Two women came to a seminar I was facilitating at their parish in a farming village in Tanzania. Because of drought food was scarce and trees were cut to make charcoal to sell to buy food. The environment was stressed and people were stressed. The two women, once friends, had had a falling out and had turned against one another. But at the seminar everything changed.
“The theme of the seminar was anger. Anger often turns to resentment and bitterness, makes us sick and destroys relationships. The group prepared short plays about real situations in their lives. The two women recognized their anger being reenacted and want to change. To forgive was the only way.
“What happened next was truly a grace. Their hearts were softened; they forgave one another right then and there. Their faces lit up with joy as they told the whole group about the new life they were feeling.
“I had nearly cancelled the seminar that day. When I learned the government would distribute food to the village, at a greatly reduced cost, I assumed the need for food was more critical than the seminar. How could anyone come to a seminar about “spiritual” matters, like anger and resentment, when desperate for food? But many women had gathered and we decided to go ahead.
“I learn that day that broken relationships are almost as unbearable as a food shortage, that forgiveness is as life-giving as flour. The grain of wheat dies when we forgive, and food in abundance fills our lives.”
– SISTER CONNIE KRAUTKREMER, MM
Picture: Women farmers in Tanzania