In the final hours of the first day of the Triduum, these intense three days when Christians rehearse the events between Maundy Thursday and the Easter Vigil, the juxtaposition of bombs in Afghanistan and swords in Gethsemane boggles the mind. In Gethsemane when they came out with swords and clubs to arrest Jesus and someone with him took out a sword and “struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear,” Jesus declared, “‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him” (Luke 22: 51).
This year on Maundy Thursday, the United States dropped a 20,000-pound bomb in Afghanistan that cost $16 million to make and more than $300 million to develop. Ostensibly, the bomb was aimed at a constellation of tunnels and caves being used by the so-called Islamic State. No one who believes in “liberty and justice for all” would ever cheer for ISIS, but I wonder how much good will might have been “bought” for $300 million. Food and health care wins allies more readily than bombs.
Perhaps that’s what Jesus meant on the day he was arrested and the day we dropped the MOAB. (Moab is also the city where Ruth is from. The great-grandmother of King David, the house and family from whom Jesus is descended. Go figure.)
Jesus did say on this day a couple of thousand years ago, “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). We might paraphrase, “all who depend on bombs will perish by bombs…” If we heeded Jesus’ imperative, we would not depend on bombs, but instead would use our might and money to empower those places in the world that languish in poverty. Poverty is most easily translated into high infant mortality, low life expectancy, and routine malnutrition. What would you do to insure your children had food and you could live long enough to see them grow up? I might support a rogue militant operation promising food and survival. How much better would it be if I could depend on the wealthiest nation in the world to share its resources rather than bomb the neighborhood?
March was the deadliest month for civilians so far in Iraq and Syria according to Airwars, a group that tracks bombings. And we also learned Thursday that we have a president who says he will grant broader latitude to military commanders to act independently. It reminds me of another commander on this night who washed his hands of responsibility saying, “…see to it yourselves” (Matthew 27:24).