CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 September 2018

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Pray for our enemies

The beginning of the Year of the Monkey and Lent coincide, two seasons in which people customarily make resolutions.

Although it may be a reflection of people’s consciousness of their short comings, choosing to give something up is as common as its failure rate, although because Lent is much shorter than a year and does not threaten the permanency of deprivation, it has a better chance.

However, a lot of good intentions are fundamentally self-centred—eating less to lose weight, cutting out sweets, smoking or drinking—whereas both Lent and the new year celebration are community oriented. Giving something up for others or for the well-being of the world may be more in line with their spirit.

Last year, the environmental group, Our Voices, created a Lenten calendar suggesting a different fast for each day: meat, travel, using excessive amounts of electricity or paper, or using less non-bio-degradable materials.

Each day had a purpose and an accompanying website contained educational information on why consuming less of these things would be good for the welfare of the whole community and the life of the planet Earth.

While depriving the appetite has benefits in terms of personal growth, which can lead to positive insights into the life of the community as a whole, it is also possible to think outside of the box and take up doing something constructive for the world.

Today, the world wonders how to deal with violence and in its frustration is falling back on the traditional and time-proven failed-solution of meeting violence with greater violence.

The extreme and irrational violence of the Islamic State is a terrible dilemma that cannot be faced with logic, even the logic of more violence is making little sense. We have seen vigils of solidarity and in our Churches and we have prayed for peace, but seldom do we hear a prayer for our enemies.

At a Mass in Sydney during the darkest moments of the independence struggle in Timor Leste, a woman prayed, “I am old now and have lived most of my life at war. I believe we have been derelict in praying for our enemies.”

In January this year, monks at the Abbey of the Dormition in Jerusalem woke to see the walls of their monastery dripping with graffiti, proclaiming, Christians go to hell; Death to heathen Christians, the heretical enemies of Israel; Revenge for Israelis; and Erased be his name.

A sword dripping with blood was drawn next to a Star of David.

This is not the first attack on the monastery. The monks are faced with the challenge of how to respond. “We are praying for those who hate us,” Father Nikodemus Schnabel, the prior, said. “If we are being attacked as Christians, then let us react as Christians.”

He added that the monks try to be more mindful of those who support them than those who attack them. “We are thankful to our friends in Israel who stand by us in solidarity,” he said. “We, as monks… will not cease praying for… the perpetrators of last night; may the hatred disappear from their hearts.”

A good resolution for this Lent and the new year may well be to pray for our enemies. JiM