Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious

Lectionary: 372

Enter through the narrow gate;
for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction,
and those who enter through it are many.
How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.
And those who find it are few.

I have never had the stomach for politics despite my fascination with it. I admire those who do. One time I attended a caucus in Minnesota. This would have been in the late 1980’s and the hot topic at the time was nuclear arms. 

The Soviet Union and the United States, armed to the teeth, were prepared to annihilate each other and every living thing on the planet. I think they disagreed on how to manage an economy; both parties agreed there should be a large middle class with very few wealthy or poor people but they could not agree on how to attain that Impossible Dream. 

Both parties also agreed that Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was the best way to insure peace. Neither nation would attack the other because it would be sheer madness. No one could win and everyone would die.

There were some in the United States – I among them -- who worried that MAD might fail; that the balance of power, like that preceding World War One, might collapse into annihilation.

So I attended a caucus in rural Minnesota with the intention of supporting a nuclear disarmament plank in the Democratic Party. I met some people who disagreed with me. To my astonishment, they believed in nuclear arms and MAD. I pointed to today’s scripture passage from 2 Kings as one example of superior military power collapsing before an inferior. 

War, it seems to me, of all human projects, has the least predictable outcomes. While a nation probably should prepare an adequate defense against hostility, to actually believe it is prepared for war or can withstand an attack is nonsense.

History books are thick with stories of smaller armies trouncing larger ones; of inferior weapons besting superior defenses. It’s easier to predict next year’s weather than to predict the outcome of tomorrow’s war; and going to war is always a crapshoot.

In today’s scripture passage, King Hezekiah was confronted by an overwhelming superior force, the Assyrians. (They came from today’s Syria. No surprise there!) He could surrender and die, or fight and die; which should he choose?

The Prophet Isaiah urged him to choose the narrow gate of reliance on God. Jerusalem would not fall to the enemy because, “The zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.”

As it turned out, the Assyrian invasion collapsed. The Divine Author says an angel attacked the camp. Historians would argue they suffered a plague. Armies, drinking unfamiliar water and encountering alien diseases, often “melt” as they march through foreign territory. They get sick; they die, soldiers desert and go home, their supply lines go dry, the political situation at home changes: anything can happen. A city with adequate defenses, defending its own territory and comfortably drinking its familiar water, often outlasts the enemy.

Jesus urges us to enter through the narrow gate. More often than not, we do not imagine the future as it actually unfolds. We might have had a general picture of it, but its details could not be foreseen; and our expectations were imprecise, at best. It is good to prepare but also to expect our preparations to fail. We need God to go with us. 

One thing is sure, to discount God’s presence, as did King Sennacherib, is to court disaster.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.