Summary: Jesus was, in fact, nonviolent, even when he used force to expel the merchants who desecrated the Temple. Violence is incompatible with human development.

Feast of Dedication of St. John Lateran

November 9, 2009

Let’s confront a misconception about today’s Gospel, and that has to do with Jesus and violence. What Jesus did to the moneychangers and pigeon salesmen who had coopted the Court of the Gentiles was to clean them out. He used force to restore the area reserved for the nations to pray. He injured nobody’s body, but certainly hurt the feelings of the Sadducees who pocketed the rent from the merchants’ stalls. That had to have been one of the reasons they plotted to destroy him. But they are forgotten, and the building that Jesus erected on His own body, the Church, has outlasted everyone who tried to destroy it.

On this feast of St. John Lateran–the Pope’s own episcopal church–we read the prophetic words of Pope Benedict: Violence puts the brakes on authentic development and impedes the evolution of peoples towards greater socio-economic and spiritual well-being. This applies especially to terrorism motivated by fundamentalism[69], which generates grief, destruction and death, obstructs dialogue between nations and diverts extensive resources from their peaceful and civil uses.” He expands that theme, however, by reminding us that religious fanaticism is not the only ideology that impedes human development. The secular religion of religious indifference or practical atheism, which we experience daily here in the U.S., obstructs the requirements “for the development of peoples, depriving them of spiritual and human resources.” Every human being yearns for union with God. “Man is not a lost atom in a random universe: he is God’s creature, whom God chose to endow with an immortal soul and whom God has always loved.” Today’s state of affairs, even in the U.S., is pathetic. “When the State promotes, teaches, or actually imposes forms of practical atheism, it deprives its citizens of the moral and spiritual strength that is indispensable for attaining integral human development and it impedes them from moving forward with renewed dynamism as they strive to offer a more generous human response to divine love.” It is our duty, those of us who work in secular systems, to pray for those we work with and for, and to ask God to open doors that we can walk through with our brothers and sisters who are looking for the transcendent. And for those of you in other situations, please pray for us who do work there, for God wills that all be saved, that His refreshing waters cool the whole earth.

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