Thursday, November 17, 2011

What Makes for Peace?

November 17, 2011

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, religious

Then Mattathias went through the city shouting, "Let everyone who is zealous for the law and who stands by the covenant follow after me!" Thereupon he fled to the mountains with his sons, leaving behind in the city all their possessions. Many who sought to live according to righteousness and religious custom went out into the desert to settle there. 1 Maccabees 2:27-29

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If this day you only knew what makes for peace? but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. Luke 19:41-43


Our father in heaven, Your servant, Saint Elizabeth brought care to the sick, food to the hungry and hope to the hopeless, Grant us they blessing that we may follow in her footsteps with love and joy on our hearts. Amen.


What are we to make of the tragedy in these readings? If we truly have the Good News in our hands and before our eyes, where is the goodness here?

Mattathias violently kills the kings messenger and then flees to the desert with his people to live in caves and worship in secret. Jesus pauses before he enters Jerusalem and laments for the city and her people.

In our first reading, Mattathias avoids the temptation to compromise his values and "zeal for the law" (the law of David, not the King's commands). Despite the hardships he has and will experience, Mattathias understands that the Lord may punish us to move us faster along the path of change, but He never withdraws his mercy from us. Later in Maccanees 2, we read, "Although [the Lord] disciplines us with misfortunes, he does not abandon his own people.

Jesus, too, is at a crossroad. From this hill overlooking the Holy City, Jesus could turn back and refuse to complete his redemption mission. But instead, he gathers up the inner courage to carry on after this pause. I can envision him kneeling down on one knee with tears coming down his cheeks. But after a few minutes, he takes a deep breath, stands up straight and strong and continues on to the confrontations that await him in Jerusalem.

One of the men I have served with on Cursillo team recounts the story of a prayer that he learned from his daughter. "Jesus never promised it would be easy. He only said it would be worth it." Mattathias and Jesus are not going through the easy parts of their journeys. As the song says, "Along with the sunshine, there's got to be a little rain sometimes."

Yet Mattathias and Jesus also know the hope of Isaiah. "As with a terebinth or an oak whose trunk remains when its leaves have fallen. Holy offspring is the trunk." (Isaiah 6:13)


As we approach the holiday season, it should be a time of happiness. Yet in a week, when we gather around tables of plenty, there also will be plenty of loneliness, illness, death, violence and isolation.

Let us use this season to spread the hope that is the cornerstone of our faith journey. Where will you plant seeds of hope?