The last words of today’s gospel give us pause to reflect on the Who and the What of the Trinity. We have just prayed in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Guiding Spirit. They are the more gender neutral names for the Supreme Being referred to by Mathew. In the continuation of today’s first reading, partly the last will and testament of Moses, God mentions the warlike activities needed, preceded by the ten plagues, to get the captive Jewish people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. They were to expect peace, tranquility and the end of slavery.
When I was in 5th grade in St. Mary’s school in Oshkosh in 1942, World War II was in full swing. I had seen war movies and had decided that I wanted to be a chaplain in the Marine Air Corps. I was swept up with the idea of flying over and destroying enemy targets in Germany. We now know that only about 50-70% of B-17’s each with 9 crew members returned from their missions. Nothing was mentioned about the horrendous destruction of cities and other civilian targets. Having lived in Germany for 44 years, I have seen the all but indestructible air raid bunkers of yore, now used as churches, museums, and practice venues for musical groups.
This past Monday our nation celebrated the memories of patriotic military personnel. They serve and have risked life and limb in wars our country has all but continually been waging the world over.
Patriotism that inspired selfless serving has been praised. But little mention is made of too many wounded personnel returning home from wars without any or only little hope of medical and psychological care for their injuries. And again, only rare mention is made of the sexual assaults against females carried out by armies of every stripe on all sides in war.
What was there about the normal citizens of Nazi Germany? All too many of them turned into conscienceless killers and marauders of non-Aryan people. They hid behind the cloak of military and patriotic organizations during the 12 years of the evil regime. On the other hand, what was there about the thousands of conscientious objectors in the same country who were imprisoned in concentration camps, tortured and executed? 92-year-old Ludwig Baumann is the last survivor of one such whose courageous stand against the Nazi power has only recently been positively recognized by the German government.
Once in control, Israel’s leaders led the people to independence and freedom. But they also went destructive, bringing on all kinds of unjust and revengeful features in daily life. The historical longing for the redeeming Savior who would make and do things the right way was and has been part of Israeli history. In today’s second reading, we are reminded of what kind of existence Jesus our Savior taught and lived. The message includes justice and peace, forgiveness, care and concern, and above all, simple and complete love.