Possible Preaching Themes
Possible Scientific Resources
  • Daily life is fraught with problems that require some resolution. There are various strategies available for problem solving. Even young children sense early in life that violence is sometimes the fastest and easiest method to get what they want. Using violence to solve problems can have disastrous consequences.
  • Good information does not always result in good decision-making. Decisions can by skewed by internal forces (e.g., emotions such as greed or anger) or by external forces (e.g., peer pressure, alcohol, etc.).

Homily Outline Combining Resources

Homily Outline on Theme 1

There are a variety of strategies for peaceful conflict resolution between individuals or groups.  These include:

  • Avoidance: just walk away
  • Capitulation: give in to the demands of the other
    • “Turn the other cheek”
  • Collaboration: find a way to work together
  • Compromise: find a mutually agreeable solution even if neither party is fully satisfied.

For many individuals, groups, and nations, the problem-solving strategy of choice continues to be violence.

  • By mid-April there were already 163 mass shootings in the US in 2023
  • The War in Ukraine has raged for over a year.
  • A glance at your local newspaper, nightly news or internet news source will update this sad reality.

Scientists are devoting more and more energy trying to understand the root causes of violence.

  • In doing so they distinguish between aggression (innate) and violence (learned).
  • Violent people often justify their actions with faulty rationale, e.g.,
    • Personal defense: personal equivalent of the military’s “preemptive strike”
      • “Do unto others before they do unto you,”
    • Teach the other person a lesson,
    • Achieve a higher good,
    • Advance/defend one’s religious beliefs (see Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads) for religious underpinnings of violence,
    • Gain access to resources (food, desirable mates).
  • Biological factors
    • An overactive amygdala can increase tendency to violence
    • Suppressed prefrontal cortex can reduce internal curbs on violence
  • Excessive alcohol consumption is a contributing factor in the majority of violent crimes
  • Among emotions that might trigger violence, frustration is often cited.
  • Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University indicate that violence can be addictive
    • Elicits positive feelings of power and dominance

The cultural world of the Bible frequently shows people turning to violence to solve problems.

In the context of Jesus’ culture, today’s parable of the violent tenants would sound like a real-life possibility.

  • Very few farmers of Jesus’ time owned their own land; most were tenant farmers (see John Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle A, 145 – 146)
    • The owner typically received a percentage of the crop.
    • Other obligations and taxes left little for the farmers to care for their families
      • Frustration could lead to bad decisions and spur the farmers to violence.
    • Original listeners might well have been surprised that the landowner didn’t retaliate with violence after the first delegation was attacked.
      • Cultural mindset that violence is answered with violence

Though Jesus does not say it explicitly in today’s gospel

  • Yet the parable of the tenant farmers reminds us that violence generates and frequently escalates violence.
  • In other New Testament passages Jesus is more explicit on the topic:
    • At his arrest he told his disciples to put away the sword, for those who take the sword will perish by it (Matt 26:52)
    • Maybe more powerful are the Beatitudes in which Jesus notes the blessedness of peacemakers, the meek, and the persecuted – a teaching which provides specific ways to full his great commandments of Love for God and Neighbor.
  • Just before we receive the Lord in Holy Communion today, central to the prayer legacy we received from Jesus, we will ask the Father to “deliver us from evil.”
  • Praying for God to shield us from the evil of violence that surrounds us is valuable
    • As well as praying that God deliver us from the potential for violence that resides within us.
  • But besides avoiding violence, we are also a people called to work for peace.
  • In his 1972 message for the celebration of the Day of Peace, Pope Paul VI famously said, “if you want peace, work for justice.”
  • Today we commit ourselves again to stand against violence in every form, and to build peace wherever we can by working for justice.
Tags: Conflict, Peace, Psychology, Resolution, Violence

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Preaching with Sciences

Edward Foley, Capuchin
Duns Scotus Professor Emeritus of Spirituality
Professor of Liturgy and Music (retired)
Catholic Theological Union
Vice-Postulator, Cause of Blessed Solanus