Tag Archives: Maritime Academy

Joshua and the Afghan War

At a time we’re preoccupied with the Afghan War how appropriate to hear today in our first reading at Mass from the great Jewish general, Joshua. Ending his career, Joshua gathers the tribes of Israel, not to reminisce about past victories or to plan future battles, but to proclaim for himself and his household, “we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24, 1-2,24-27)

Joshua’s days and the days of the Judges that follow were days of war. The Jews had become “a rough people, barbarized by war.” The general now seeks to know God’s will. Good advice to us? What’s God’s will for war today? 

Today at the US Maritime Academy at Kings Point I offered to the young men and women at Mass what our Catechism of the Catholic Faith tells us about war: 

Avoid it:

“The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life. Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war. 2307

All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war. However, as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed. 2308

The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time: 

  • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; 
  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; 
  • there must be serious prospects of success;  the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. the power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition. 2309
  • The Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflict.The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties. 2312
  • Non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners must be respected and treated humanely.
  • Actions deliberately contrary to the law of nations and to its universal principles are crimes, as are the orders that command such actions. Blind obedience does not suffice to excuse those who carry them out. Thus the extermination of a people, nation, or ethnic minority must be condemned as a mortal sin. One is morally bound to resist orders that command genocide. 2313
  • Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation. A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons – to commit such crimes. 2314
  • The accumulation of arms strikes many as a paradoxically suitable way of deterring potential adversaries from war. They see it as the most effective means of ensuring peace amongnations. This method of deterrence gives rise to strong moral reservations. the arms race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of war, it risks aggravating them. Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations; it thwarts the development of peoples. Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict and increases the danger of escalation. 2315
  • The production and the sale of arms affect the common good of nations and of the international community. Hence public authorities have the right and duty to regulate them. 2316

Fox News, CNN, The New York Times, the New York Post, all the media are busy with the politics of it all. Might be better to ask what’s God’s will. 

The Epiphany Feast Isn’t Over!

Kings Point, New York

Like the Christmas feast, we can pass over the Feast of the Epiphany too easily. It can become a quaint story of no significance.

I spoke about the meaning of the Epiphany on Sunday at the Maritime Academy in Kings Point, New York, where young men and women are being trained for service on the ships that sail our seas and waterways. This feast should mean something to them.

The only gospel that records this story is the Gospel of Matthew, so why is it there?

Matthew’s gospel was written for Jewish Christians in Galilee and Syria some time after the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70. We can’t imagine how shocked they were by the complete destruction of the temple and the city itself. These were places where God’s promises would be fulfilled, they thought. The Messiah would appear there. This was where Jesus would come again. All nations would stream to Jerusalem, prophets like Isaiah foretold. Now they were gone.

Matthew’s gospel reminds his hearers–and us too–that Jesus must be known by all nations before he comes again. “Go and make disciples of all nations,” Jesus says in his final words in Matthew’s gospel, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28, 18-20)

Matthew’s story of the Magi is a reminder that even as Jesus is born, messengers, strangers, wise men from afar, want to know and acknowledge him as their king and God.

Jesus Christ came, our gospel says, not for only one people or nation, but for all. Though his ministry was first to the Jews, Jesus wishes to make the world one. God doesn’t wish to save a few. He wants to save all– all the world.

The Magi came, our story says, from the east. Could that be from Iran or Yemen; two places we hardly view positively today in our country? More and more, as we look at the world only through the lens of politics and economics; we fear the stranger, we reject the immigrant, we create enemies, we reject people not like us. We’re becoming tribal instead of global. We’re falling into individualism. As the old song said, we’re looking for “perfect peace, where joys never cease, and let the rest of the world go by.”

But we can’t let the rest of the world go by and we won’t be safe behind walls. We’re living in a big world that God wants to be one. That’s what the story of the magi tells us. We’re all commissioned on this Feast of the Epiphany, which is followed next Sunday by the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, to go out into the whole world, “ baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” teaching them to observe all that Jesus commands. And he will be with us, even to the end of time.

I told the young men and women at Kings Point on Sunday that they’re commissioned as people of the sea. The oceans and waterways are highways uniting this world of ours. They shouldn’t be looked at only through the eyes of economics or politics. They’re meant to connect peoples, they’re bridges that make us one.

As I left the chapel, I met some people who are “furloughed” by the current government shut-down. We don’t have to look far to see how dangerous it is to see the world only through the eyes of politics and economics. We need a brighter star.