|Procession of the Nazarene in Venezuela Ave. on April 16|
|March of the barefoot for suffering Venezuela on April 16, 2014|
Easter is a time for reflection, prayer, penance and celebration for Christians. According to the Christian tradition Holy Thursday is when Jesus Christ gathered his disciples for the last supper and later that same night in the Garden of Gethsemane he was betrayed by Judas and arrested.
Father John Dear offers two reflections on the significance of the events in the Garden of Gethsemane through the optics of the nonviolent Christ who is found in the Sermon on the Mount and in his reaction to Judas's betrayal and Peter's defense. As Judas handed him over to those who would take him to his death Jesus told him: "Friend, do what you have come for." When Peter attacked one of the servants of the high priest, who had come to arrest Jesus, cutting his ear off with a sword the Nazarene chastised him: "Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword." Father Dear's insight that in the Garden for the first time in the scriptures the disciples engage in two acts of violence: Judas's betrayal and Peter's violent defense:
Under the cover of night, in the first act of violence by a disciple, Judas kisses Jesus and betrays him, and the soldiers move in for the arrest. In the second act of violence by a disciple of Jesus, Peter himself takes out a sword, strikes at a soldier, and cuts off his ear. Jesus will have none of it. "Put back your sword, for those who take up the sword will surely perish by the sword." These are the last words of Jesus to the church before he was executed, and it’s the first time they recognize the depth of his nonviolence. What do they do? They all run away.Mohandas Gandhi regularly read the Sermon on the Mount and said "If I had to face only the Sermon on the Mount and my own interpretation of it, I should not hesitate to say, ‘O yes, I am a Christian.' However, the behavior of many who call themselves Christians led to the following observation from the Indian independence leader: "It is a first class human tragedy that people of the earth who claim to believe in the message of Jesus, whom they describe as the Prince of Peace, show little of that belief in actual practice."
How many of us follow Christ's command to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us? When we say the Lord's prayer do we understand and internalize that "If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."
In a speech the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave in St. Augustine in 1964 he described both this kind of love and the impracticability of violence:
"Its difficult advice and in some quarters it isn't too popular to say it...Let us recognize that violence is not the answer. I must say to you tonight that violence is impractical...We have another method that is much more powerful and much more effective than the weapon of violence...Hate isn't our weapon either...I am not talking now about a weak love it would be nonsense for an oppressed people to love their oppressor in an affectionate sense I'm not talking about that too many people confuse the meaning of love when they go to criticizing the love ethic. ...I am talking about a love that is so strong that it becomes a demanding love. A love that is so strong that it organizes itself into a mass movement and says somehow I am my brothers keeper and he is so wrong that I am willing to suffer and die to get him right and to see that he is on the wrong road."In 2011 a young Serb activist explained people power within a strategic framework but at the same time the attitude of this activist also speaks volumes. Nonviolent resistance is not easy because it transforms the natural outrage over injustice, tyranny and brutality into nonviolent power driven by love.
Today in places like Cuba and Venezuela courageous men and women are picking up their cross in the struggle for liberation and justice while at the same time rejecting hatred and embracing nonviolence. True reconciliation is based on principles and justice if it is to be a real and lasting peace. Nonviolent resistance is the means to achieve it without committing new injustices.