Growing up on the streets of Yonkers, NY, loyalty was an important virtue. Most of us identified as members of a parish, and trumpeted our sports teams, our schools or the beauty of the liturgy and the choir as better than other parishes. Anyone who disagreed was quickly challenged to a contest, and while most of the time these battles lacked violence, it was not always the case. Baseball and basketball games might have a fight or two, but thank God they were quickly broken up by clear headed adults.
Nevertheless, being the best parish was important, and although this kind of competition and loyalty had little to do with the Gospel, it was an important element of our faith as children, and something we had to reexamine as adults. Jesus was clear about this, especially in his response to Peter who wanted to fight for the Lord's dignity and integrity. Peter must have been confused and upset when the Jesus told him not to be defensive, but to listen with God's ears rather than as a tribesman. Peter was a new believer who had to learn over time what that would mean for his life and the lives of the other apostles.
There is no need for most of us to defend our faith or religious traditions. In fact, too often when we try to articulate our faith we do a poor job and diminish others beliefs. Rather, our willingness to discern how God sees the world and our place in it is critical to understanding and living the Gospel as an invitation to freedom and hope. The power that Jesus offers us, while having political and social implications, is not a license to destroy other communities or religious systems, but a summons to a life of humility and meekness which will help others know the God who wants us to build a community of peace and justice for all.
Today, ask God what God wants of you and us today
What helps you to think with God not about power over others?