Ordinary Time 25, Year B

A little child will lead them (Is. 11:6)

Says Daniel J. Harrington, S.J. (cf. “The Origin of Wars and Other Conflicts” in the Sept. 18, 2006 issue of America):

The Letter of James does not have all the answers
to our social and personal problems. But with regard
to wars and conflicts, James’s suggestion that they
come from jealousy and selfish ambition, disordered
passions and covetousness seems to be both perceptive
and wise.

I am afraid, however, that many of our political leaders who have taken the decision to go to war would not find any wisdom in James’ analysis. I would not be surprised if it should seem laughable to them this wisdom that, according to James, comes from above and is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And should some of these leaders agree with James, I would still doubt it that they would accept their guilt and acknowledge that they are the ones that harbor jealousy and selfish ambition, disordered passions and covetousness; these internal states—they would insist rather, I think—characterize not themselves but their opponents.

Perhaps these leaders would consider themselves too learned and informed about political matters and international relations to be simply carried away by ideas from Christian antiquity, which, in their view, no longer apply because, given 9/11, “our world has changed, our enemy has changed and our approach must also change.” They would probably take themselves to be too mature, independent and self-sufficient, with enough knowledge, skill, expertise, experience, wealth and power to depend on others; they are not like little children who are dependent on adults.

But God guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way; he hides things from the wise and learned and reveals them to little children (Ps. 25:9; Mt. 11:25). And St. Vincent de Paul assures us: “It is among them, among this poor people, it is there that the true religion, the living faith, is kept.”

Those who are not children, those who are not poor, those who need nothing and nobody, those who, believing themselves second to none in power, wealth, morality or religion, do not want to be bothered, reproached for transgressions, charged with violations, those who do not like that their accustomed and supposed certainty questioned, those who jockey for the best position of power and authority and do not understand the Christian teaching on the passion and death that precede the resurrection—none of these will attain, I do not think, the wisdom that teaches one to ask rightly, the same wisdom that leads to peace and to its fruit that is justice. For the wisdom from above takes sides with those the world deems foolish, weak, with the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, with those who—to borrow from Jesuit Luis Espinal Camps’ writing [1]—are afraid, admit that their strength is made of clay, acknowledge themselves to be weak and see the future to be enigmatic and their path enveloped in fog, yet keep on giving themselves anyway because Someone is waiting at night with a thousand eyes filled with tears, this being perhaps due many times, if I may add, to wars and conflicts.