Korea & the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – Homily

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a
Psalm 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14
Romans 9:1-5
Matthew 14:22-33

Jesus’ disciples found themselves a few miles offshore “being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.”  They faced a great storm.  I know that I might feel fear in such a situation.

In situations like this, we turn to Jesus in prayer.  We look for Jesus to give us consolation and protection.  Yet, when the disciples see Jesus coming towards them, they “cried out in fear.”  Why?  Because they thought it was a ghost walking on the water.

When Peter finds out it is Jesus he says, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus does and Peter steps out of the boat and begins to walk on water.  But then he becomes “frightened” and begins to sink.  His faith is weak.

We shouldn’t judge Peter too harshly for this.  His faith is weak but is ours any different?  I’m not sure I would have ever even tried to step out of the boat in the middle of the storm.  In fact, I’m not sure I would have even been in the boat in the middle of the storm.  If I was, I might ask Jesus to calm the storm before I got out of the boat.

Isn’t that what we do when we face storms (challenges) in our lives?  If we receive the diagnosis of an illness, we ask God to cure us immediately.  If we lose our job, we ask God to give us another (and better) job right away.

We should always start our response to storms in our own lives by asking God to help us.  However, we shouldn’t just sit around and wait for a miracle.  We need to let Jesus lead us across the waters of the storm.

We can face storms in our own lives as individuals.  We can also face storms as a local community, a state, a national, or a storm that could affect the whole world.

I do not know about you but I have been doing a lot of thinking and praying about what is going on with North Korea.  Relations with North Korea had been difficult for a long time but it seems like a storm is really brewing now.

While some might feel like me, I’m sure there is a range of opinions out there from what difference does it make to me (Korea is on the other side of the world) to let’s bomb them and get rid of them.

As disciples of Jesus, we should care.  Why?  Because there are lives involved.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church talks about “safeguarding peace” and “avoiding war” in paragraphs 2302-2317.  It’s all under the section in the Catechism about the Fifth Commandment, “You shall not kill.”

I hope it is obvious that our Catholic faith says “war” must always be a “last resort.”  We need to pray for the success of diplomatic efforts.  Please pray.

Knowing the history of conflict in the world and that war sometimes happens, our Catholic faith has what we call “Just War Theory” to help us know what must be considered before starting armed conflict.

One of the criteria is what I already mentioned about “last resort.”  Other criteria include a “just cause,” meaning there must be a serious evil to be corrected.  In evaluating action, one must examine how innocent lives might be affected.  Will more innocent people be affected than “un-innocent” people?

The group taking the action must have the authority to act.  With North Korea, can one government make the decision to respond (especially beyond immediate self-defense) or does the United Nations need to make the decision?  We need to ask what is our intention?  Self-defense?  Protection of life?  Power? Economic gain?

There is also the principle of “comparative justice.”  The response must be in proportion to the original action.  You can’t wipe out a country in response to an attack of a single missile.  Thinking specifically of the situation of North Korea, I am concerned about a very quick escalation where one side launches a few missiles, then the other side responds with even more missiles… and it keeps increasing to full war.

There is one more criteria of “Just War Theory” that I feel is very important here, the “Probability of Success.”  We must ask ourselves what “success” even is.  When we went into Iraq the second time in 2003, I think part of “success” was defined as getting Saddam Hussein out of power.  He was captured and executed.  Are things any better?  How stable is the region?

What would be gained by simply removing the President of Korea, Kim Jong Un from power?  Who would take over?  Would it lead to any stabilization in the region?  Honestly, I don’t know the answer to this but I do know it is a very important part of any decision. 

Might military action be necessary?  Perhaps.  We need to pray for those directly involved in all of this.  In the midst of all the rhetoric, I turn to today’s first reading.  How did the Lord make his presence known to Elijah?  Was it in the POWER of the wind, the earthquake, or the fire?  No, it was in the “tiny whispering sound.”

So, let us pray that everyone involved stop escalating the rhetoric and quiet themselves to listen to God’s guidance.  Let us pray that military action is not necessary but whatever happens we pray for the safety of all who defend the innocent.

For the complete list of “Just War” criteria see “Just War Theory”


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