Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Jihad and Jesus Followers

Father John J. Lombardi

Third Sunday of Advent

Would Jesus Christ, Who is the one Savior of the world (Acts 4:12), force Himself on others? Does Jesus want us to coerce others into conversion? In today's world--on the precipice of war, in the midst of egregious evils-- we need confront, again, the issue of returning evil for evil…Should Christians ever use evil to confront evil? Should Americans go to war against Iraq?

Though these are difficult, moral questions, we are sure of this much: Through the Christmas Event, in response to the world's evil and suffering, the Lord Himself comes to us, as a Divine Child, inviting conversion and acceptance…Who can refuse a child? Pure innocence conquers the density of darkness…

As Catholics and Christians we believe in many paradoxes of faith which are called mysteries, one of which is: The Father wants all to be saved (I Tim. 2:4), but He never negates a single person's free will to force conversion. Likewise, Christians are called to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into Jesus' fold (see Mt. 28: 19 )-by loving their souls and by respecting their consciences as well.

As followers of Jesus we need to discern such discipling in today's fragile world. Pope John Paul has asked forgiveness for when Catholics-knowingly or not--practiced aggressive proselytization-- thereby forgetting love and respect of conscience. Today, while not flinching from the unique claims of Catholicism (as the original Church-unity of Christ, and Him as the one and only savior of the world), the Pope makes the following distinction: We propose our Faith, and Jesus Christ, to others, but we do not impose it, or Him, upon others.

Regarding another religion, Islam, there have been significant events in the last year which have made people like the liberal columnist, Andrew Sullivan (in last year 's New York Times Magazine), question the nature of Islam's goal and whether coercion is part of it (just as many have questioned Catholicism's European past and Inquisition). Such enervating events of some Islamic involvement include: the destructive day of 9/11 itself; statements by various Muslim groups, which pursue Islamicist goals thru terrorism; the oppression by certain governments of minority populations; and various militant groups attempting to destabilize governments. Obviously, while not all Muslims do not subscribe to such tactics, many others are obviously concerned-"out loud or quietly"--by the systemic rise of such anti-Western sentiments in the world.

Amidst this, today, we need balance: a warning both against a precipitating, and thus premature, clash of civilizations (between so-called "infidels of the West" and Islamicist East), and also against a naiveté which prevents realism and reason.

Recently, in Nigeria, a secular newspaper's writer suggested, regarding the Miss World Pageant ladies whom were gathering there, sometimes scantily clad, that Muhammad himself (the founder of Islam), would have married one of the ladies . That statement was one evil (as it was against the religion's founder). The equally-evil reaction from some Muslims of that country (decried by the local Catholic bishop)-especially in the city of Kaduna--was to murder innocents, including Christians, and burn towns. One evil action led to an equally evil response. This is not unlike the author Salmon Rushdie, a secularist Muslim, who blasphemed Allah in his book, "The Satanic Verses," which was one evil, and then an Islamic government issuing a fatwa, death sentence, against him, as another evil.

Before we in the West, get too haughty, and think we're exempt of returning evil for evil, let us recall: a previous president of the United States legislated the partial birth abortion bill, at our oldest Catholic college-- legitimatizing the killing of children about to be born from the mother's womb. This is clearly an evil. Is there an equally-evil reaction? Yes: The bombing by so-called right-to-lifers of abortion mills, and, in one case, the murdering of an abortionist. Both actions are evil-legalized murder and murdering to stop murdering. Notice: they are similar in intensity, evil and absurdity.

We can see in these events-East and West-- how evil works: people get incensed and, despite their religion, promote evil in other forms to "cure" a previous evil. St Paul knew this vicious cycle when he decried those who "do evil that good will come of it" (Rm. 3:8). This leads to a (somewhat) famous, needed, Catholic moral principle: Never do an evil to bring about a good.

In today's incendiary world, many have called Muslim leaders to categorically denounce all forms of bloodshed, especially under the cloak of "jihad" (the word means holy war). When these condemnations are commenced, so will doubts about the Islamic religion, and it will foster a dialogue and trust which many propose today. Frankly put: Is Islam being hijacked--by the extremist few? Or, are recent events typical of an inherently militant religion bent on conquering the world? Currently we may run the risk of feigning peace-promoting false impressions of harmony, and thereby failing to call others to conversion, and neglecting to protect the innocent.

This brings us to the issue of possible war with Iraq. Is there a Catholic position? Catholic theology says, in order for a war to be just, it must be as a last resort; it must be declared by legitimate authority; it must do the least possible damage to life (esp. to non-combatants); the war must have a possibility of success.

Many individual bishops and catholic conferences have said the "Iraqi situation" has not fulfilled such obligations. George Weigel, a lay Catholic theologian, however-and others-- has proposed that war is legitimate, because Iraq possibly has weapons of mass destruction; therefore, it would be unjust to disarm Iraqis from further destruction. In other words, he implies it is evil to ignore the need of protection. Oppositely, most declare possible war immoral, because to begin a war can risk more disproportionate evil and suffering than current circumstances present. In other words, pre-emptive war can't bring justice.

The dialogue about justice and just war, evil and remedying it, religion and legitimate evangelization should continue; repression about any such issues may only foster further troubles. If our diverse country is about anything, it is about dialogue. Evil develops precisely where there is ignorance and repression of the truth . Vatican Council II (1962-1965) stated Catholics are called not only to bring Good News to others, but also to purify errors in the world and other religions: "For the Church is driven by the Holy Spirit to do her part for the full realization of the plan of God who has constituted Christ as the source of salvation for the whole world"(#17/Lumen Gentium On the Church)

Conclusions: 1. Let us pray for the wisdom of President Bush and his advisors regarding current evils. We pray lovingly and respectfully for the discernment and the conversion of all those who use evil to harm others, and for them to embrace the Prince of Peace. 2. We, ourselves, are called to avoid evil to promote a good, no matter how attractive or seemingly legitimate the good is. Some "commonly done" evils to bring about good include: "white lies"; sterilization and vasectomies; contraception and abortion; working on the Sabbath… 3. Let us pray that Our Lady of Fatima--who has special and familial connections to Muslim, thru the daughter of Mohammed, named "Fatima"-that she will help all come to her Son, the Savior …

As we prepare for the Birth of the Savior, let us remove any evil, "straw" from the mangers of our hearts and souls, and place there, instead, virtuous "straw" for the Christ Child to lay His heah.

Advent Meditations to Contemplate:

The debacles and diversions to deeper prayer include the following "Killer D's" : Distractions (from a dust particle to a crying child), we allow these to preoccupy us, stealing valuable time and energy: stop fixating! and focus on God. Distancing Divinity: we think only of God as far above us, thus increasing egoic-projection and needless effort, thereby solidifying a self opposed to God. Rather, in a state of grace, God dwells within us, and thru deeper prayer and meditation we allow Him to decrease us, thus enabling us to embrace Him more purely (cf. Jn 3:30). Demons-visit us (cf. Lk. 11: 20-26) and come back stronger if "allowed". But thru unseen warfare within, thru loving meditation, these demons will cancel their visits.

Debilitating Dialogue: we "do therapy" and "endless processing" of self and world within, in a ceaseless treadmill of psychobabble. We need rather die to self and allow God to purify us (Cf. II Cor. 3:18). The outer, false self cannot clean and purify itself (cf. Eph 4:22 ff, on this distinction)! Only in deeper prayer and contemplation-by the soul allowing God, esp. in the Holy Sprit-can God clean us and free us to a truer love of Him without traces of self-investment (cf. Rm 8:26). Now, consider the following meditations, and pray!

"But when God deemed it time, and he pitied the sufferings of His beloved, then He sent His only-begotten Son to earth into a rich hall and glorious temple, which was the body of the Virgin Mary. There He espoused this bride, our nature, and united it to His person out of the most pure blood of the noble Virgin. The priest who married the bride was the Holy Spirit. The Angel Gabriel announced the banns. The glorious Virgin gave her consent." +Bl. Jan van Rudysbroeck (1293-1381/Dutch, Priest and religious founder).

"O Noble lady, speak, was it humility/ that chose you to conceive God, Who's infinity?/ Or was it something else? For I would like to know/ How to be maiden, bride, God's Mother here below." +Angelus Silesius (b.1624/Polish convert, Priest).

"We know that there are three comings of the Lord. The third lies between the other two. It is invisible, while the other two are visible. In the first coming He was seen on earth, dwelling among men. In the final coming all flesh will look on him whom they pierced. The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved." +St. Bernard of Clairveaux (1090-1153/French, Abbot and doctor).

"Enter into your mind's inner chamber. Shut out everything but God and whatever helps you to seek him…Speak now to God: I seek your face, your face, Lord, I desire… Teach me to seek you, Lord, and when I seek you show yourself to me…Let me seek you in desiring you and desire you in seeking you, find you in loving you and love you in finding you." +St. Anselm (1033-1109/English).

"Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. I tell you again: for your sake, God has become man. You would have suffered eternal death had he not been born in time…You would have perished had he not come. Let us joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption." +St. Augustine (354-430- Bishop).

"As those who see light are in the light sharing its brilliance, so those who see God are in God sharing His glory, and that glory gives them life. To see God is to share in life." +Irenaeus (+203/Bishop)

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi