Revolution – Without Making Noise

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Many of you
may have already read the
address given on the Sunday before the beginning of Lent
— the
time set aside for repentance and changes of mind and heart — by
Pope Benedict XVI. If not, let me exhort you to read it and ponder
it — and then distribute it. This is one superbly crafted statement
on the importance, indeed the centrality, of Jesus' teaching of
nonviolent love of friends and enemies, and on this being "the
nucleus of the Christian revolution" and hence axial to a correct
understanding of the Gospel. For those who spend the time with it
that it deserves, it will be an illumination of a truth hidden or
obscured, perhaps since their Baptism.

Remember this
Pope is considered by the consensus of his academic colleagues,
regardless of their individual Christian denomination, an eminent
theological scholar. There are no shallow or throwaway lines in
this address. Consider his words on how nonviolent Christlike love
of friends and enemies operates: "The revolution of love…which
changes the world without making noise." At one level this
could be read, and properly so, that the Gospel revolution of Christlike
nonviolence and love of enemies changes the world without the noise
of war or violent revolution — both of which are always suffused
with the noise of weapons, the noise of the herd, the noise of hate,
the noise of revenge, the noise of self-righteousness, the noise
of propaganda, the noise that drowns out dialogue, the noise that
overrides conscience, the noise that represses empathy, the noise
that is not human language as the carrier of truth but is rather
loutish blarings as the carrier of the spirit of destruction and
desolation. Such a reading of what the Pope said would be reasonable.

But, "The
revolution of love…which changes the world without making noise,"
reaches infinitely beyond this interpretation. It proceeds to the
very core of the revolution Jesus Christ started and offers us the
opportunity to participate in and continue, that is, the revolution
that Pope Benedict says "is not afraid to confront evil with
the weapons of love and truth alone." In the context of Benedict's
address the words, "The revolution of love…which changes
the world without making noise," is a direct and immediate
reference to the counter-violence, revolutionary Hymn of the Suffering
Servant, the ebed Yahweh — the summit of salvific nonviolent
love in Hebrew Scripture. Its opening stanza is

Here is my
servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
Upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth righteousness to the nations,
Not crying out, nor shouting,
not making his voice heard in the streets.

A bruised
reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
Until he established righteousness on earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

Isaiah
42:1–4

To underline
and elaborate on what I am saying, let me here present excerpts
on the Hymn of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 42:1–4; 49:1–6; 50:4–9;
52:13–53:12) and on its relation to the New Testament from the writings
of another world renowned Catholic intellectual, the Biblical scholar,
the late Rev. John L. McKenzie:

"The
number of allusions to this passage (Suffering Servant) in the
New Testament is difficult to count. But they are enough to establish
the thesis that this passage had a central position in the proclamation
of Jesus. The early Church attributed the proclamation of this
theme to Jesus himself and no convincing reason has been urged
to show that it should be attributed to another. It is as deeply
embedded in the Gospels as anything else; to repeat what I have
said in other connections, if this theme is not the work of Jesus
himself then we know nothing of his words or his person."

"It
is remarkable that the words at the baptism of Jesus (Mt 3:17;
Mk 1:11; Lk 3:22) are almost an exact quotation of Isaiah 42:1."

"It
remains true that Jesus demands that his disciples identify themselves
with him as the Suffering Servant."

"Jesus
suffered; but there is nothing in the Gospels which indicates
that he liked it."

"Mere
cultivation of pain does not assure identity with Jesus the Suffering
Servant. Mere animal pain does not save. Identity with Jesus suffering
is first of all identity with Jesus loving, to put it in a word.

"As
Suffering Servant Jesus experienced nothing, we have noticed,
which is not part of the human condition. And he thus placed his
achievement within the reach of all people."

"The
Suffering Servant theme is the peak of faith in the Old Testament,
the supreme affirmation of God's power. When we meet the theme
of the Suffering Servant as proclaimed in the New Testament, we
are at the very center of the Christian revolution."

Lest some of
my non-Catholic readers feel a certain discomfort with all this
scholarly focus on the Pope and the writings of a Catholic Biblical
scholar, let me offer some thoughts on the same subject from a Protestant
Biblical scholar every bit the academic equal to Benedict XVI and
John L. McKenzie, namely, Oscar Cullmann:

"We
come straight to the heart of New Testament Christology with the
title Suffering Servant, ebed Yahweh, although scholars have not
usually given it its proper place."

"At
what point in his earthly life did Jesus reach the consciousness
that he had to realize the task of the Suffering Servant? The
key to the solution of this problem is the voice from heaven,
which Jesus hears when he is baptized by John in the Jordan (Mk
1:11 and parallel passages). The saying, u2018Thou art my beloved
Son; with thee I am well pleased,' is a quotation from Isaiah
42:1. In the Old Testament these words are addressed to the Suffering
Servant; indeed they are the introduction to the u2018ebed Yahweh'
hymn. We may consider it certain that the words of the voice from
heaven (to Jesus at his baptism) are a citation of this passage
in Isaiah. He realized at the time of his baptism that he was
the u2018ebed Yahweh,' the Suffering Servant," and from that
time on the way he should go was clear to him. We conclude that
the concept of Jesus as the u2018ebed Yahweh,' the Suffering Servant,
has its origin with Jesus himself."

The purpose
of these quoted scholarly reflections on the Old Testament theme
of the Suffering Servant and how it intersects with the New Testament
proclamation of Jesus is to try to make visible the depth of truth
being presented here by Benedict. It is also to try to insure that
the spiritual and moral momentousness of what he is stating regarding
Gospel nonviolence and love of enemies is not recklessly brushed-off
by Christians with the habitual, unthinking and unserious evasive
flippancy: "Oh that's nice, but that stuff is just so much
spiritual cotton-candy, a bit of uplifting idealistic, unrealistic,
Utopian piety." Let me assure my readers, first, that a full
year's university theology course at the doctoral level could be
built around this address. Secondly, if this is an easily dismissible
piece of sugary theological fluff, it is the first such piece that
the former Cardinal Joseph Ratszinger, 25 year Prefect of the Congregation
of Doctrine and Faith, has presented for public consumption in the
last four decades!

Do give this
address thought and prayer. In a world where violence and enmity
are the tools of choice for bringing in a "better tomorrow
and brighter future," in a world where these tools of choice
have been so technologically honed that a few people can generate,
almost instantaneously, levels of fear, hate, destruction and desolation
that in the past would have required tens or hundreds of thousands
of people years to effect, in a world where the production and sale
of these tools is the most lucrative business on the planet, and
finally in a world where practically all of this is being done with
"God" as its source and/or supporter — is it not time
for Christians and their Churches to teach what Jesus taught and
to struggle to live what Jesus lived in relation to violence and
enmity? Has not the fullness of time arrived for one of the world's
major religions to say an absolute, universal and never-ending,
"No," to divinely justified violence and enmity, because
violence and enmity are de facto in radical opposition to
the Way and the Will and the Reality of God — because they are hostile
to the Holy? Is it not time for Christians and their Churches to
choose as their "way of being, the attitude of one who is convinced
of God's love and power, who is not afraid to confront evil with
the weapons of love and truth alone?" Why should Christian
and their Churches be the first major world religion to universally
witness to this truth about God and His Way by choosing this "way
of being"? Why — because their Founder, Lord and Savior so
witnessed to this truth about God and God's Way by this "way
of being." And — because he explicitly chose them to do likewise.

Please, do
give this presentation by Benedict XVI to your pastor, to the people
of your parish (not only the peace and justice folks), to your students,
to your family, to your friends, etc. Dialogue and pray about its
content with them. If you are not a Catholic and see the Pope as
simply a Christian man, then read, study and ponder what he is saying
here, asking yourself but one question before God: "Is he stating
in this address the truth that Jesus Christ taught by word and by
deed, and that He commanded His disciples to observe?" (Mt
28:20)

April
20, 2007

Fr.
Emmanuel Charles McCarthy is a priest of the Eastern Rite (Byzantine-Melkite)
of the Catholic Church. Formerly a lawyer and a university educator,
he is the founder and the original director of The Program for the
Study and Practice of Nonviolent Conflict Resolution at the University
of Notre Dame. He is also co-founder, along with Dorothy Day and
others of Pax Christi-USA. He has conducted retreats and spoken
at conferences throughout the world on the issue of the relationship
of faith and violence and the nonviolence of the Jesus. He was the
keynote speaker at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee for
the 25th anniversary memorial of the assassination of Rev. Martin
Luther King, Jr. there. He is author of several books, including
these: All Things Flee Thee because Thou Fleest Me: A Cry to
the Churches and their Leaders to Return to the Nonviolent Jesus
and His Nonviolent Way; Christian Just War Theory: The logic of
Deceit; August 9: The Stations of the Cross of Nonviolent Love.
He has also authored innumerable articles on the subject of violence,
religion and the nonviolent love of friends and enemies taught by
Jesus by word and deed. His audio/video series, BEHOLD THE LAMB,
is almost universally considered to be the most spiritually profound
presentation on the matter of Gospel Nonviolent Love available in
this format. BEHOLD THE LAMB is now available on
mp3CD through his website
, either at the cost of $5.00 for a
disc or it can be acquired directly by an mp3 downloaded from
the website for no cost
. Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy was
nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his life’s work on behalf
of peace within people and among people. He may be reached and his
work may be accessed at the Center
for Christian Non-Violence
.

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