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The tragic events that have claimed two victims and have devastated the lives of several families in our town happened as we were preparing to celebrate Remembrance Sunday, the solemn time when we stop as a nation to commemorate those who have given their lives for our freedom and livelihood. In the morning, as we gathered at All Saints’ Parish Church, we listened to the words of Jesus saying to his followers “You are my friends if you do what I command you… I have called you friends” (John 15:14-15).
Two commands of Jesus are found in the story of his arrest. In the four gospels we are told that as an armed, angry mob bent on violence came to arrest the Lord, Saint Peter pulled out his sword and struck one of the assailants. In this moment Jesus replied to him, “Put down your sword!” (John 18:11), and “Enough of this!” (Luke 22:51). What may seem passing words of Jesus, the “Jesus thing to say”, are in fact more than that. They are commands to one of his friends and, by extension, they are commands to us all who strive to follow Him.
Put down your sword!
Enough of this!
There are laws to deter and protect our society from awful events like this, and laws that bring to justice those who perpetrate them. We also have the commands from the gospel. But rules, from the state or from God, can only go so far. As one of Macklemore’ songs points out, “No law's gonna change us. We have to change us”. We need a change. We need to change, as individuals and as a community, and Jesus offers us a model to work towards.
When we look at the story in Saint Luke’s gospel, we see Jesus’ distinct sense of frustration at the violence that is engulfing Him, but in this frustration the Lord does something extraordinary; “the Jesus thing to do”. He touches the assailant who had been wounded by his disciple and he heals him. Jesus intentionally reaches out; He touches one of those who wanted Him dead and makes him whole.
Jesus points out that the only way out of cycles of violence is through kindness. We see this elsewhere in the Scriptures where it says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
So, as we hold in prayer before God all those caught up in Sunday’s violent incident, let us listen to the Lord Jesus who, calling us friends, says to each of us to put down our weapons (not just physical ones!); to work to heal our community from anger, resentment, aggressive attitudes, and desire for violence; to embody kindness towards everyone.
Father Diego Galanzino
Priest-in-Charge of Houghton Regis