By request, I am outlining (and expanding a bit) several of the points from last Sunday’s homily (11/15). The base text was from Mark 13: 1-8. I discarded my original outline in order to speak from my heart in response to the events of 13 November 2015. As I stated then, I expect it to be controversial and maybe even offensive, but I will not apologize for that.
The reason that history repeats herself is that we are deaf. It is said those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. Events like 13 November 2015 do not happen in a vacuum and there is a connection in history with this date and events in the Islamic world. It is not coincidental that 13 November was chosen, as 13 November 1918 was the day that the allied powers entered Istanbul/Constantinople as occupiers at the end of the First World War, marking the first time that Istanbul/Constantinople had been occupied since the Turks had captured it from the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine) in 1453. Istanbul as the capital of the Ottoman Empire represented the capital of the last caliphate as the Sultan was also caliph. In fact, the Sultan/Caliph Mehmed V had issued a Fetva/Fatwa against the Allies calling for Jihad on 14 November 1914. (I do find it ironic that the first openly Muslim prayer service offered at the National Cathedral (Episcopal Church) occurred on 14 November 2014). Remember that dates are important. 11 September 2001? Look to the lifting of the Turkish siege of Vienna by the Poles in 1683.
- We must admit that we are at war and that it is a religious war. Militant Fundamentalist Islam is at war with the West, with Christianity and even with their coreligionists. This cannot be denied and the goal is not containment. Whether we see this as a religious war, those who hold this ideology do so and we must honor that. There are no civilians in this war and it is a war of the “righteous” against the infidel. We cannot forget this or deny the religious character of this war. The question is what is our response to be?
- I must admit my, very human, response was one of “more bombs now”, however this is not the correct response from a Christian viewpoint. This might be the appropriate secular response, but it is not the way to conduct a religious war. The Secular State may need to go to war, send soldiers into combat, to protect and defend the nation, but to truly fight a religious war we need religious weapons. An ideology will not be defeated by bombs and guns, only God can do this.
As Christians we need to return to our religious arsenal. Our chief and most powerful weapon is prayer. We need to be people of prayer, praying for our world, our fellow Christians, for peace, and even for those who have made themselves our enemies. Ideology can only be defeated by conversion and we need to pray for conversion, both our continual conversion and the conversion of the world. We need to pray and attend the Sacraments, this is our first spiritual combat.
- Our Lord told us there would be wars and rumors of war. That nation would rise against nation. We also know that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. However, there will not be peace on earth until Jesus is Lord of All. Only Jesus can bring peace. Peace for our restless hearts. Peace for the world. There is no other who can do this. Do not be lead astray. Any priest, any preacher, who claims that Jesus is our way to God or a way (among others) is a false priest, a false preacher and a false teacher. Only Jesus makes intercession for us and establishes the way to a relationship with God. Only when we are converted to the Lordship of Jesus, and only when the nations of the world find Jesus as the King of kings will the world know true peace. It is our obligation to pray and work for this. There is no other hope. And hope there is, because Jesus has conquered death and hell.
- The retired Bishop of Rochester, England, The Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali, is also the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the reports that Jesus is doing remarkable things in the Muslim World. People are converting to Christianity in large numbers, although in secret due to Islamic Law that calls for the death of “apostates”. These conversions have been accompanied by visions and dreams of Jesus and by miracles. Often, these conversions are associated with healing, thus medical missions are important. Even with the suffering of the Church in the Middle East, Jesus is still making disciples. We need to pray for these new Christians, support them as we can, and pray that Jesus continue to reveal himself to the world as we pray for our continual conversion. For only in him will there be peace.