Readings for 26th Sunday in ordinary time: EZ 18:25-28; PS 25: 4-5, 8-10, 14; PHIL 2: 1-11; MT 21: 28-32 http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092414.cfm
If I were you, I'd be careful about air travel. That's because, as the President reminded us last week, the enemies we've so fiercely created over the last 13 years are plotting to blow U.S. commercial aircraft out of the skies. So one of these days Khorasan's heat-seeking missiles will find the rear end of your plane, and that will be the end of you.
And, when you think about it, those firing the rockets will be justified in doing so. That is, if we allow them to apply the insane logic behind Mr. Obama's latest justification for bombing his seventh Muslim country in six years.
In doing so the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said last week, "Once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people."
Wait a minute!
Our "leader's" logic (if we universalize his pronouncement) has just endorsed an endless cycle of violence that should be completely unacceptable to any human being -- not to say to any attempting to follow the Way of Jesus. His words mean that those who plot against another country trying to do their citizens harm can claim no safe haven. They will be subject to reprisal.
Tell that to drone victims and to Syrians who lost their children in last week's bombings -- or to similar casualties at weddings and funerals in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The President's doublespeak logic allows them to say, "Once again it must be clear to the Americans plotting against us and trying to do our citizens harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for such terrorists who threaten our people. There will be reprisals."
That means that the militants in the countries just mentioned can legitimately respond to the terrorism of drone and outright bombing attacks with similar assaults on American citizens in our own "homeland."
So as I say, hold your breath on your next airline trip to Miami or New York. The blowback is coming -- and the blowback to that blowback too.
Such are the realities of Eternal War.
It's that sort of damned logic (I'm choosing my words) that is addressed in today's liturgy of the word. It's not at all comforting.
The first reading from the prophet Ezekiel sets the tone. It underlines what Easterners call the Law of Karma. Ezekiel says that people die because of their wicked deeds. He says, "When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die." That's karma. It's an inescapable law of the universe.
St. Paul put it this way, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." (GAL 6:7-9). Relative to war, Jesus was even more pointed. He said all those who live by the sword will die by that same instrument (MT 26:52). It's all karma.
As citizens of a nation that lives by the sword more than any other in world history, what then are we to do? Here, once again, today's readings supply an answer. We must abandon the destructive path we're on. That's what Ezekiel says. Speaking of the potential recipient of negative karma, Ezekiel promises, "But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, he does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die." That too is karma.
In other words, to avoid the negative consequences of our actions, we must change course radically. More specifically today's gospel selection addresses that imperative to political leaders. It calls them to make their actions correspond to their words.