15 November 2015

Fr David’s sermon 15 November 2015 – after the Paris attacks

“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” (Mark 13: 1-8)
“Tragic Paris, desperate news of deep tragedy, with heart break for so many. We weep with those affected, pray for deliverance and justice.” Archbishop Justin Welby.
Pope Francis condemned “this new manifestation of maddening, terrorist violence and hatred.” He deemed them unjustifiable “inhuman” acts that left him shaken and pained.
“There is no justification for these things. This is not human,” he said, adding that he was praying for the victims, their families and all the French people.
He declared the attacks, “an attack on peace for all humanity” and called for “a decisive, supportive response on the part of all of us as we counter the spread of homicidal hatred in all its forms.”

David Cameron said: “I am shocked by events in Paris tonight. Our thoughts and prayers are with the French people. We will do whatever we can to help.”
The US president, Barak Obama, told a press conference: “Those who think they can terrorise the people of France and the values they stand for are wrong.”
Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, condemned the attacks as “heinous and immoral. My thoughts are with the people of Paris tonight,” the Labour leader said. “We stand in solidarity with the French.”

What is our response to be? What should we think? What can we do?
We live in difficult times: we have seen innocent people die at the hands of people who do not respect the sanctity of life. In Chapter 5 of the Quran, it reads:

“…that if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder or to spread mischief in the land – it would be as if they’ve killed all people, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if they’ve saved all people.”

In our Gospel, this morning, we see the Rabbi and his disciples coming out of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The lads from the countryside; the fishermen, are amazed by the sheer size of the Temple. I remember when I first entered NYC – like my Irish ancestors – via the sea. Getting off the Staten Island ferry, you land in Brooklyn right near Wall Street. The buildings are so tall, you can’t help but stare upwards as you walk along. The Temple seemed so mighty too the disciples. But by the time Mark wrote his Gospel, the Temple in Jerusalem lay in ruins, destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. It was destroyed in a bitter and bloody battle between Jews and Romans after which the streets of Jerusalem flowed with blood and the bodies of the dead were piled higher and higher.

The events in Paris of two days ago have certainly shaken our confidence in the strength and enormity of our democratic freedom and security. Whether it was the brutality of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Or the destruction of innocent people in Paris – the common factor is a fanatical belief of one group’s right to destroy another. When will such destruction come about? the disciples ask of Jesus. So he tells them: “Beware no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say I am he.” Radicalism and fundamentalism are the result of the teaching of false prophets and will lead to judging, violence, hatred, war and destruction.

So what is our response to be? Jesus tell us that the pain is the beginning of the birth pangs. The whole point of the Christian story is summed up thus:
“While we were yet his enemies, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5: 6-10) In other words, God shows love for us precisely by putting off the divine power that we crave. The day after this heinous attack, we may wish for God to come down and wipe out our enemies. Instead, Christ on the cross, completely powerless at the last, shows us that it is only love that can overcome hatred, evil and even death.
Martin Luther King said:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

The only radicalism and fundamentalism which will work – is for us to be radical in the way we work to share the peace of Christ. We need to be fundamentalist in the pursuit of love at all costs. We need to be fanatical about compassion; forgiveness and healing. In the letter to the Hebrews we read, a moment ago:

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet one another, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

We need, therefore, to chart a way to make peace. Peace, not appeasement or total war. In order to be able to do that, we first need to turn back to Jesus and ask for help. Like this:

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord.