Monday, November 16, 2015

When terror is at our door, how is Jesus the answer?

South East Asia woke up on Saturday morning to the horrific news of the orchestrated terror strikes in various parts of Paris, France.  It must be a thing that brothers share in their blood.  My brother texted me to say that what shocked him was not so much the utter atrocity of the attacks, but that he was no longer able to be shocked by carnage of this scale anymore.  Gone are the days when such news would be simply appalling and horrifying, leaving us distraught and beside ourselves.  I was thinking exactly the same thing. 

With the downing of the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001 as a barometer of terror, such carnage just doesn’t seem to jolt us deeply and stop us in our tracks anymore.  What does it say about our humanity and what triggers our compassion when such news of massacres, butchery and outright slaughter leave us no longer flustered?  Signs betraying the fact that we may have turned bovine in our behaviour is evidenced when video footages of human beheadings are passed around through cell phone Whatsapp messages like as if people were sharing something that has an entertainment value.  Not that I have received such video feeds, but I am not oblivious to the fact that these things exist.  Somehow, our daily diets of having been force-fed voraciously such vile reports now seem to no longer allow us to experience an unsettling of the stomach and a wrenching of our hearts.  If the aim of the terrorists is to numb us to evil’s existence and odium, perhaps it is true that they are now having a strong upper hand.

The knee-jerk reaction to such blatant violence is to return an eye for an eye.  Some may say that ISIS’s rationale for such condemnable acts could well be to retaliate against the alleged assassination of Jihadi John a few days ago.  If this is so, it is clear that what Ghandi said about “an eye for an eye making the world go blind” is not a mere pithy statement.  Violence in return for violence caused is a reaction, and not an action.  It comes from the same mind and thought processes that is in the evil itself.  I think it was Albert Einstein who once said it so astutely "we can't solve problems by using the same thinking that we used when we created them".  Though we (as human beings) didn't outrightly create evil, resorting to violence as a response to evil is akin to the same thing.  The need and insatiable drive for “revenge” that is often couched under the much more socially acceptable term of “justice” is clearly not a solution and will bring us nowhere near an end to this madness that the world is experiencing right now.  It needs a different 'mind' and a different thinking.  The drone strike that purportedly killed Jihad John was a combined effort between the U.S. and U.K.  Yet, the target of Friday’s attacks was France.  Evil is clearly no respecter of personages and nationalities.  Evil has humanity as its target.

What does the Christian have in his or her armory as a response when terror and evil of this magnitude becomes so glaring and flagrant, and is found at one’s very doorsteps?  Is the follower of Christ given any access to a special arsenal that gives him or her an edge over such cunning, guile and deviousness?  Our faith in a God who is divinely merciful does in fact give us that, and more.  But it is not an easily acceptable and readily understood “weapon” of choice, simply because it doesn’t seek to harm, but instead to disarm.  It is, unfortunately, the model path that Jesus took in his choice to face the storm of evil right in the face with love – the love of God and of his very murderers.  It doesn’t mean that the Christian option when faced with violence of this magnitude is to become doormats and let our enemies trample us to the ground.  That would be an overly simplistic interpretation of the Calvary event.  There would be scarcely any salvific value in that kind of response. 

Jesus’ teaching of loving our enemies is one of the hardest things to accept and practice, but it is really the only true response that is radical.  A radical is not just a root, but also a concerted departure from tradition.  In the case of violence that is malevolent and diabolical, Jesus has always taught that violence begets violence, and it is only love that provides a way out of the vortex that violence sucks one into.  This is the 'new mind' that conquers evil.

When a spouse who has been cheated on comes to me in confession and cries out for God’s justice, it easily becomes clear that what this wronged spouse often wants is revenge, and the more painful this is for the philandering spouse, the more ‘avenged’ the innocent partner thinks he or she will feel.  My counsel is often something that they hardly even want to entertain or consider with any level of seriousness.  This is because I only offer them Jesus and his example writ large by his life and passion on Calvary.  It is love in response to hurt caused and as an answer to murder perpetrated and brutally carried out.  It may seem simplistic and even stupid to pray for, or make sacrifices like fasting and performing acts of mercy with love for these who are our tormentors, but no one has ever said that love was logical or that it was easy.  Especially when it is love done out of a true willing of the heart despite not being loved back.

To hope to get a whole nation or nations to do this with a true conviction is more than a herculean and onerous task, especially if we are not united in our belief that the Jesus response is possibly the only way out of this iniquitous maelstrom.  If we can’t even get spouses who are hurt to do this on a marital level within a single household with the result of a new compassion, how much more formidable is it going to be on a far larger national or world-wide scale? 

Yet, I know that my single efforts at fighting this storm with love and charity is not an act that is going to be unnoticed.  My faith is based on the strong and unshakeable belief that one man’s amazing courage 2000 years ago confronted the greatest storm of the sin of humanity on a hill called Calvary and that it took away the sin of the world.  Jesus chose to face the force of evil headlong in love and mercy and this makes my single efforts at praying for, and even trying to love my enemies a weapon of choice.  Faith is what makes this weapon powerful.  While this choice may be laughable to some, faith tells me that it is laudable to God. 

This is my personal response when terror is at my doorstep.  It is also Jesus’ response.  What is yours?


  1. Pray frLuke. In matters that I can do nothing about it, I will always offer it up to the Lord and know that He will fix it; how & when I do not know, but He will :)


  2. “Jesus’ teaching of loving our enemies is one of the hardest things to accept and practice, but it is really the only true response that is radical.”

    Your mention about Gandhi reminded me that not only was he an ardent admirer of Jesus but he also studied Jesus and his teachings well. So Gandhi’s resistance movement of non-violence could very well have been inspired by Our Lord’s teachings, his life and death.

    He would have recognized that the way of Christ is actually active engagement and not as one would generally presume – a passive form of least resistance or like you said – being a door-mat. It is in fact a new way, a radical way of response to evil or violence. This must have struck him as a beautiful answer to turn the tables on his colonial aggressors - instead of keeping evil in circulation.

    As disciples of Christ, how can we fail to see this truth? For if we believe that the nature of the one true God we worship is Love, how then can Love contradict itself by advocating revenge?

    So though I cannot as yet fully understand Christ’s radical way of loving......especially our enemies.....I would rather cling to this than the old adage of “an eye for an eye” and spiral into total blindness. Whereas, I believe that love restores and heals.......ultimately!

    God bless u, Fr.