June 14, 2018
by Barbara Dilly
Creighton University's Department of Sociology and Anthropology
click here for photo and information about the writer

Thursday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 362

1 Kings 18:41-46
Psalms 65:10, 11, 12-13
Matthew 5:20-26

Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Rediscovering Corporal Works of Mercy

Jesus tells us today that anger toward other brothers gets us in trouble with God, as does insulting other people or threatening to stamp them out.  He reminds us of this after he recites the commandment “You shall not kill.”   In this message, he is telling us that these behaviors are accelerations to hostilities that often result in killing.   Rather than escalate tensions, we need to deescalate them by reconciling ourselves to our brother as soon as we experience differences.  Jesus tells us today that just because we do not go so far as to kill someone, we are guilty before God if we set the conditions into motion. 

I am taken with this passage today because it was only a few weeks ago that I heard this lesson from the pastor of a small town Methodist church at the community Memorial Day commemoration of our fallen soldiers.  In a tiny town of just 1,300 people it takes a long time to read those names, beginning with the War of 1812 and the Civil War, and continuing through every generation into the present one.  All of us know someone.  I grew up hearing first hand stories of WWII dead from my father who served in Okinawa, and then later, from my brother-in-law who served in Vietnam.   War was always on our minds and hearts and it made a peace activist out of me because I can see where war does not serve us well in the end.  But this year, I got a deeper message that is far more valuable.

I am reflecting here that Jesus is much more than an anti-war activist or a pacifist role model.  He is the good teacher who tells us how to avoid that suffering.  He is not admonishing us so much for our wrongdoings as he is looking out for our best interests.

Drawing on the words of Jesus, the pastor at the Memorial Day service reminded us that all those fallen heroes were fighting in wars that began with anger, insult, and threats that could have, and should have, been resolved before we lost all those men and women.  I am not passing judgment on any side here.  Neither was he.  His message was not a moralistic attempt to rewrite history.  It was a message of hope for the future straight from the words of Jesus.  We need to stop and think, every time we speak against others in anger, when we insult them, and we threaten them, we are escalating tensions that can lead toward killing.  And for that, we are liable to judgement before God.  We were reminded that we need to check those impulses and instead find ways to reconcile with others or we can get hurt in the process.  Jesus makes that quite clear.  Amen, he says.  Amen.

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