Christ’s peace be with you! This month, we begin the forty days of Lent, which for me, is a special time to turn back to the God of love and peace and start following Jesus all over again. Jesus is the epitome of nonviolence, and given the all-consuming culture of violence and war around us, Lent is a good time to turn from violence back to the nonviolence of Jesus–to let go of our inner violence, interpersonal violence, and complicity with national and global violence, and to embrace and practice the creative, loving nonviolence of Jesus. That’s what my new book is about.
Walking the Way: Following Jesus on the Lenten Journey of Gospel Nonviolence to the Cross and Resurrection (www.23rdpublications.com also available from amazon.com) starts at the moment when Jesus turns to walk to Jerusalem on his own campaign of nonviolence. Each of the twenty chapters concludes with questions for personal reflection and small group discussion about our Christian journey of nonviolence in the steps of Jesus.
We hear lots of talk these days about God, church, judgment and the spiritual life—but not enough about what I consider to be the heart of the matter—the spectacular nonviolence of Jesus, and his demand that we practice nonviolence and follow him on that journey to the cross and the resurrection.
In chapter two, I reflect on Luke 10, where he sends the 72 disciples out on the mission of nonviolence into the culture of violence. “I am sending you as lambs into the midst of wolves.” I felt a bit of that the other day when I testified at the New Mexico State Capitol about a bill requiring background checks for gun sales at gun shows in NM. I was surrounded by angry white men, all members of the NRA, all devoted to their guns. They were probably all Christian, and probably never told about the nonviolence of Jesus and its political implications for ourselves.
I reflect on Jesus’ rebuke of James and John who want to call down hellfire from heaven; his requirement of forgiveness toward those who hurt us; his tears over Jerusalem and our rejection of “the things that make for peace”; his entrance into the city as a fulfillment of Zechariah’s nonviolent king; his civil disobedience in the Temple; his gift of the Eucharist as a new covenant of nonviolence; his invitation to friendship on Holy Thursday and our rejection, denial and betrayal; his Gethsemane prayer and commandment that we put down the sword; his arrest, imprisonment, trial and torture; and his horrific execution on the cross.
For Good Friday, I reflect on the words of Jesus from the cross, as a doorway into his nonviolence. Then I ponder the resurrection text as clues into his eternal life of peace, his resurrection gift of peace, and the mission he sends us on.
Each one of us is being disarmed and sent on the Gospel mission of creative nonviolence. For me, that meant most recently working with my friend Sr. Helen Prejean to advocate for a stay of execution for Oklahoma’s death row inmate Richard Glossip, whom we believe is an innocent man. (Visit www.richardeglossip.com). Thankfully, the Supreme Court intervened and a stay was granted. Please join our campaign to save Richard and to abolish the death penalty.
And it means ongoing work to build “Campaign Nonviolence,” a new national movement to carry on Jesus’ mission of disarmament and welcoming God’s reign of nonviolence. See: www.campaignnonviolence.org. We are calling for marches across the U.S. during the week of September 21st to denounce war, poverty, racism, nuclear weapons and environmental destruction, and to promote a new culture of peace and nonviolence. We’re also organizing our great upcoming Campaign Nonviolence National Conference in Santa Fe, NM, Aug. 6-9, with Jim Lawson and many other peacemakers. Please join us! The conference is half filled so register soon!
Throughout the book, I offer short chapters on various episodes where Jesus practices nonviolence and challenges the disciples’ violence. It leads to Holy Week with a series of chapters on Palm Sunday, the action in the Temple, the Eucharist, arrest, crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus—all from the perspective of nonviolence. Each chapter concludes with three questions for personal reflection and small groups. You can order it from amazon.com or 23rd Publications.
Wherever your journey takes you, I hope and pray that you will follow the nonviolent Jesus ever more faithfully as we work to welcome God’s reign of peace, nonviolence and justice. God bless you!