Bishop Karen Oliveto's Weekly Message (10/21/23)

October 21, 2023
These have been heart-wrenching days as our TV screens have been filled with images of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The night sky has been lit up by rocket missiles that have exploded with deadly consequences. Homes and hospitals have been destroyed. Bloodied, bruised, and dead Israeli children and Palestinian children have torn our hearts into a million little pieces.

How do we make sense of this conflict? How do we make a stand for peace in a place that has been torn apart by violence for centuries? What are we to do?

As I watch the images from the Middle East, a reminder whispered to me:

Jesus wept.

Jesus wept.

Jesus weeps twice in the Gospels: Once, when he learns that Lazarus, someone he loved dearly, had died (John 11:35). The second, when he stood overlooking Jerusalem and was overcome with emotion, weeping as he said, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19: 41-42).

I am struck by these two instances: in the first, he feels such kinship with another that he can only cry when he learns that Lazarus has died. The second, in spite of the jubilant crowd that welcomed him with Palm branches and shouted “Hosanna”, he can only weep as he looks over Jerusalem (whose name means “City of Peace”).

Maybe what is needed in this moment are our tears. May we open our hearts to those who are caught up in a conflict that is not of their own making. May their life matter to us. May we cry at the loss of life, whether Israeli and Palestinian, simply because they are our siblings, connected to us by a common cord of humanity.

May we cry because peace seems so elusive. May we cry because we, too, seem not to recognize the things that make for peace.

And then, through the power of God’s grace, may we live lives of peace. In youth group, we sang “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” This is the foundational place where peace begins. If we aren’t living with hearts of peace, that give rise to acts of peace and relationships of reconciliation, how can there be peace in our lives, towns, cities, countries, and world?

May the peace that begins with us pour out and connect with other peace-seekers. May this become a strong and gentle movement that truly turns swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, so that tears no longer fall and no one studies war anymore.

With love,
Bishop Karen