The reflections for October are by Bishop Francis Alleyne, Bishop of Georgetown, Guyana and Vice-President of the Antilles Episcopal Conference
In a recent article in the Tablet (UK) Fr. Nicholas King SJ, a professor in scripture, offered a cautionary word about how we read and draw insight from the bible. One tendency can be to zero in on a text that helps to carry a position or conclusion that we want to believe. I have heard more than one individual proudly conclude that “Jesus says its ok to drink because he turned water into wine”. Also, when we are very familiar with a text and comfortable with a particular interpretation or association we may not pause to discern what else is being said. Today’s gospel reading is the well know text about the coin and giving back to God and Caesar and we can easily tag it to Church versus State situations. Not that the tag is not valid but let us ask ourselves what more, what other truth is lying under the familiar surface of these verses from Matthew’s Gospel.
Matthew takes time to tell us that Jesus’ adversaries went to great lengths to trap him, to deceive and discredit him. They go away to work out a plot, they set others up to do the dirty work who then approach Jesus and try to butter him up and “mamaguy” him. Person have to be broken and insecure with feelings of diminishment to go to such an extent. While Jesus calls them out on their insincerity he does not launch a counter attack, he does not look for a fight, he does not try to give them a dose of their own medicine. Jesus invites them into another way of being, to look at life through a different lens.
So many conflict situations arise our of human vulnerability and those in conflict go down the road of having to prove a point or of needing to silence the voice that is different and judged to be threatening. Our politicians sometimes take this route. And it is sad that we should see this displayed in leadership. There seems to be a belief that by discrediting the opposing voice one’s own position can be validated. Let us pray for the day when those presenting themselves for civil leadership can simply and clearly lay out the ideas and plans that would benefit the electorate and then use their mandate to make their plans real. Even the whole concept of opposition that is part of our parliamentary system and the language and way of function that has been passed down sets the stage for mayhem. Could we not expect the coming of a time when the language of respect and collaboration would be the default position in those places where our civil leaders watch over the needs of God’s people? Let us pray for this too.
In 2003 the Bishops of the region wrote the pastoral letter “Justice and Peace shall Embrace” on crime and violence. In the opening of that letter the Bishops said “we are increasingly concerned by the suffering of our people due to widespread and growing violence throughout the region”. Eleven years later the Bishops’ concern still stands. Of particular concern is the expression of violence in the home. Confrontational, adversarial or antagonistic approaches to conflict do not have a good outcome.
Lord, may the your ways of compassion and accommodation grow in us. Where there is discord show us the ways of harmony, where there is fragility and insecurity make us a tender presence that protects and give hope. We lay before you those wounded and in fear. Touch their being and renew in them confidence, trust and peace.