Homily for Hiroshima Day, Mass for Peace

Welcome again, dear friends. I’m just back this weekend from speaking in England and Scotland, and I didn’t know it, but if you asked what country is actually on the verge of outlawing nuclear weapons, apparently, it would be Scotland. Every day for the last year, hundreds of activists, church people and politicians have vigiled at the Trident nuclear submarine base in Faslane, with civil disobedience actions every day. This has led to strong statements against nuclear weapons by the Cardinal, bishops and leading politicians. So when I met the main organizer, I said “This sure is very hopeful,” and she looked at me and said adamantly, “No! It’s not hopeful. It’s certain. Trident will leave and Scotland will outlaw nuclear weapons. It’s just a matter of time.” Isn’t that exciting?

Our situation, on the other hand, is quite different. I think we’re in for a long haul. Los Alamos is starting new pit productions, business is booming, and recently the paper reported that the Rio Grande is poisoned with Hexavalent Chromium, (like in the movie “Erin Brokovich,”).

So we have to be hopeful, even though there is no evidence that anything we do makes a difference, even though there are few signs of change. And the best way to stay hopeful is by doing hopeful things. So we stand up and speak out and say publicly that these weapons are immoral, impractical, and illegal; that they don’t make us safer; that they threaten our health, our security, our environment and our souls; that they are the greatest evil on the face of the earth; that these weapons, as Pope Paul VI said, are “a theft from the poor;” that these funds should be used to provide food, homes, medicine, education and jobs for the world’s poor; that they make a complete mockery of the nonviolent Jesus; that they are a total insult to the God of peace.

I think the only way to carry on this work of hope is by trusting completely in God, realizing that this is not our work, but God’s work; that with the God of peace, all things are possible, including the disarmament of Los Alamos.

So tomorrow, we go to Los Alamos and take up the book of Jonah once again and like the people of Ninevah, turn to the God of peace, put on sackcloth and ashes, repent of the sin of war and nuclear weapons, and beg God for the gift of disarmament, and expect that our prayer will be answered, that a miracle is coming, that Los Alamos itself will be disarmed, that nuclear weapons will be abolished and outlawed, and that a new world of nonviolence is coming. I think it’s ours for the asking.

With that in mind, I chose this Gospel reading from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:43-48) not just to remind us of the obvious–that you cannot follow Jesus and build or support nuclear weapons at the same time–but to remind us of our vocations–that we are called to be people of universal love; people who love their enemies; people of unconditional, all-encompassing, all-embracing, all-inclusive, compassionate, nonviolent, non-retaliatory, forgiving, disarming love; people who practice an “unusual” love; a love that goes beyond the family line, neighborhood boundaries, U.S. borders and laws to reach out with love for the whole human family and all of creation One way to love our enemies is to work to stop our government’s preparations to kill them, to annihilate them with nuclear weapons.

I’m always amazed that Jesus commands us to love our enemies–not because it’s the right thing to do, which it is; not because it’s the moral thing to do, which it is; not because it’s the only practical political solution, which of course it is. We love our enemies because God practices universal love. God lets the sun shine on the good and the bad and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. God is crazy in love with each one of you, and more than that, God has a wild, crazy, passionate, politically incorrect, scandalously generous love for all 6.2 billion of us–and we are God’s sons and daughters, so we do the same.

So as we come to the altar to commune with the God of peace, and go tomorrow to Los Alamos, I invite us to go deeper into that holy universal love, to practice that unusual love, to live every day from now on in that great nonviolent, disarming love so that it becomes a way of life for us, and more and more contagious, so that we might fulfill our vocations to be the sons and daughters of God, and one day soon, receive the gift of the disarmament of Los Alamos. Amen.