Pope Francis.  Authentic human development has a moral character.  It presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be concerned for the world around us and take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system.  LS 5. This statement is taken from the MARFAM THOUGHT FOR THE DAY for today,18 October.  These reflections are prepared way ahead of time but it seems particularly appropriate for our time in a wider sense too.

18th October.  Jesus’ condemnation.  There is a story about a farmer who wanted to give his farm animals a thank you gift, a nice breakfast of bacon and eggs. The hen was quite happy to provide the eggs, but the poor pig sure wasn’t.  “You give from excess,” she said, “I give from substance.”   Giving to God and the Church demands balance and discernment.  Wisdom is knowing what is what.  Some modern-day churches that demand that their members tithe to them to be in God’s good books manipulate people’s commitment for their own benefit and in fact show little care for the true needs of their own flock. 

Reflect, share, act. Scripture Woe to you, Pharisees, lawyers also for you tithe mint and rue and every herb and neglect justice and the love of God.  From Luke 11:42-46. Pope Francis.  Authentic human development has a moral character.  It presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be concerned for the world around us and take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system.  LS 5. Pray: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in us the fire of your love, so that walking together we may renew the face of the earth.

Can there be peace on earth in the midst of the horrific destruction of everything that contributes to an ordered system for so many people in far too many places?  The war between Israel and Hamas, was unprovoked and totally unexpected, although deliberately planned to coincide with a great Jewish holiday feast, the end of Sukkot and the day known as Simchat Torah when the annual Torah reading cycle begins again. It is celebrated with great rejoicing, singing and dancing in the streets. That was the context chosen by Hamas to attack, kill and kidnap innocent civilians and their families.   Hardly anything more directly evil can be imagined and the furious anger of Israelis in response can hardly be excused, and their right to self-defence, if not revenge, is understood.

However this situation is the consequence of many years of political juggling and mismanagement, wars and self-defence by Israelis, cross-border fighting, occupation and oppression of Palestinians, victims of dispossession and manipulation into siding with terrorist groups to gain their own right to existence. Will a two-state answer to this reality ever be given a chance?  That appears to be the only real hope for peace in the region and will take enormous good will and a desire for the two faiths to answer to their common God.

Israel, as a country, is a traditional home to the Jewish people, but contested and fought over by Palestinian and other Arab nations ever since Israel’s independence in 1948. There has in fact never been an accepted peace in the country probably for centuries, but the current reality with its gross human rights violations and suffering for innocent people on every side is what Pope Francis aptly describes as a failure, a defeat. In commenting on the yearlong war in Ukraine he has written earlier, “the Devil seeks man’s failure but can do nothing if there is prayer.”

These most recent bloody terrorist incidents beat the violence of many war crimes witnessed across the world even in the last year. This includes the explosion at a Gaza hospital overnight for which Israel did initially get the blame but denies responsibility and blames another terrorist group’s rocket misfiring and exploding.  What can our response be to “man’s inhumanity to man, but very much to women and children.”  Women and children have been victims of war in particular ways too, rape and sexual assault even have longer term consequences.  Children of war are scarred for life, physically, mentally and psychologically.   Our prayers and sacrifices as requested by our religious leaders can make a small difference, a growth in compassion for the suffering, disadvantaged, the terrorised.  We thank Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem,  for his willingness to offer himself in exchange, and for the Vatican, and many other countries to attempt to mediate.  Every human thought and feeling of compassion, all the peace vibes and energy emitted can contribute to building peace.  

Apart from their designated tasks, surely the prayers and especially the “Conversations in the Spirit” practiced so conscientiously in Rome by the Synod participants during these weeks, as they listen to one another and share their insights and hear one another’s pain, can stir the hardened hearts of those who have lost the ability to feel for their fellow creatures and all of God’s creation suffering the anguish of this war.     Finally Pope Francis speaking to an Argentian journalist said, “A crisis calls us to take action. We cannot live without hope. If we cut off the little hopes of each day, we would lose our identity,” he said. “We don’t realize that we live on hope. And theological hope is very humble but it is what seasons daily seasonings.  The Middle East does not need war but peace, a peace built on justice, dialogue, and the courage of fraternity,” he said.