Posted March 29, 2014
by Jerry Alatalo
“I can say without the slightest hesitation, and with all humility, that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means.”
– Mahatma Gandhi (1869-assassinated 1948)
In the Bible, Matthew 4:8-9 reads, Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, “All these I will give to you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
World events and tragic wars in recent years have many men and women searching for wisdom to help them gain any understanding of the reasons for continuing violence on Earth, along with knowledge of philosophical teachings that point humanity in the direction of peace. Thank you to Dandelion Salad blog for posting an interview of Father John Dear recently, where he discussed spiritual issues and his latest book “The Nonviolent Life”.
Having never heard of John Dear, the interview was very insightful. He shared his experience in the early 1980’s as a 22 year old traveling to El Salvador, and spending time with six nuns who were eventually shot and killed by men armed by the Reagan administration. During those conversations with the nuns he heard them say that there was a good possibility that they would be killed, but the level of their faith and wish to end the violence in El Salvador illustrated a commitment to peace that John Dear would never forget.
During this time Oscar Romero – a priest who spoke out against government sponsored killing of El Salvador’s poor – was shot and killed while in the pulpit pleading to El Salvador’s political leaders for peace. The six nuns and Oscar Romero understood, lived, and died in spiritual alignment with the words, “Greater love hath no man, that he give up his life for his friends”. That greatest love is in 2014 becoming understood by an increasing percentage of humanity, whether consciously or unconsciously, and evidence of this increased understanding is offered in mass movements to end war, violence, inequality, and injustice.
Because of this worldwide phenomena a war was stopped in Syria in August 2013, where men and women from all regions and nations on Earth communicated through social media – Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, and over the internet’s alternative media – their rejection of another war. Essentially the world’s people are telling politicians and business leaders that war is no longer acceptable, and a new way of peaceful cooperation on Earth must be created.
Those men and women who have been moved to work for peace have the shared experience of seeing innocent men, women, and children suffer the worst consequences of wars fought because men and women have succumbed to the temptations of wealth and power and “all the kingdoms of the world”. Those who make the decision to work for peace also share their reactions upon seeing such massive, unnecessary human suffering – a level of empathy and compassion for fellow members of the family of man that drives them to tears.
During nonviolence activist John Dear’s interview he noted that Mahatma Gandhi read “The Sermon On The Mount” every morning and evening for 45 years. Gandhi was multi-spiritual, seeing the value in all traditions. The classic Eastern spiritual text – “Bhagavad Gita” – was Mahatma Gandhi’s bible, and he always had a copy with him wherever he traveled. Gandhi said:
“I believe in the fundamental Truth of all the great religions of the world. I believe that they are all God-given… I came to the conclusion long ago… that all religions are true, and also that all had some error.”
When John Dear mentioned Gandhi’s disciplined, 45 year, twice-daily reading of The Sermon On The Mount, he presented a fact about the life of Gandhi that many men and women may be unaware of. In these times, the spiritual wisdom offered by those words studied intensely by one of history’s greatest peacemakers is precisely what men and women around the Earth are searching for.
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.
You are the salt of the Earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and Earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
You have heard that it was said to the men of old, “You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment”. But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, “You fool!” shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first to be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.
You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy”. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.
Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.
Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.
Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
View John Dear’s interview here.
Visit John Dear’s website johndear.org.