I began this fall season with a retreat in Kirkridge, Pennsylvania. I had met Daniel Berrigan in 1973 in Montreal at the then Jesuit University of Loyola. It was at the performance of a play: The Catonsville Nine. Berrigan was the author of the play and it depicted the burning of draft cards by himself and eight others at the height of the Vietnam War. I was deeply moved. And so when I heard that Daniel and Phillip Berrigan and Liz McAllister would be leading a reflection on these times at the retreat center of Kirkridge I wanted to be there.
On a sabbatical at Maryknoll in New York I encountered Daniel Berrigan for the second time. We spent July together studying Peace Making. We compared notes, ideas and conversed about what it is like to be a religious priest at this moment in the North of the Americas. In some respects we have had a similar history.
At our retreat in Kirkridge Dan and Phil and Liz McAllister reflected that in this past year a line was crossed, not for the first time, revealing the immense capacity of human beings to do real evil to one another and call it good – to make lies sound truthful, murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. Violence is never a good; war cannot be made holy. It begets terrorism, immense suffering, and destruction – and leaves “the truth in its ashes.”
Our culture is constructed, brick over hanging brick, of vital lies. Adam and Eve told the first lie: Cain connected it to murder; David the king raised it to an art form in his deception and murder of Uriah the Hittite; Psalm 94 and Hosea 4 joined lies and murder to the dying of the earth; and, in the 8th chapter of John’s gospel, Christ exposed Satan as the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning.
As long as we prefer these vital lies to simple truths, our sensibility will be picked by blind spots and twisted by an anxious need to avoid the truth, quickening the drift toward disaster. The witness of truth is our last and best hope.
The Redemptorist Biblical Consultancy joins with all Peace Makers who are trying to bring sanity to a world where politicians and others are preparing for war. War is a failure of the human. War is not in the mind, heart and spirit of Jesus. Called to discipleship in these our times we ought to take in hand the Sermon on the Mount and make it our way of life. It calls for conversion and truth telling.
Paul E. Hansen