Bishop Anthony B. Taylor
On holidays, we often hear speakers refer to the United States as the greatest country in the world. We are indeed a great country and certainly the most powerful country militarily, even after our nation-building efforts in Afghanistan have failed.
Twenty years ago we conquered Afghanistan militarily, but we never won peace – and neither did the Taliban. Why is that? Because power is not the same as greatness. Real greatness does not come from the power to dominate, to coerce, but rather from the ability to persuade.
While we have tried to instill Western values ââof justice and equality for the benefit of the people, we have only been able to convince a certain part of the population. When we force others to submit, as we did in the beginning, and as the Taliban is doing now, we put ourselves above them. But instead, if we are successful in persuading people, they take ownership, and they are the ones who decide if and how to change – and indeed, it is only by changing hearts that we will achieve lasting peace. there or anywhere.
We see it clearly in the Middle East. Bombing campaigns may have a strategic purpose, but they don’t change hearts, at least not for the better. The most effective country is the one that is most successful in changing people’s hearts. I think it would be Vatican City – especially in the days of Pope Francis, which is the least powerful country in the world militarily.
“True greatness does not come from the power to dominate, to coerce, but rather from the ability to persuade.”
In the Gospels, for the past two weeks, Jesus has been telling us how far he is willing to go to change people’s hearts. Last week he said, âThe Son of man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes and be killed. Today he says, âThe Son of man is to be delivered to men, and they will kill him. ”
But the disciples did not yet understand what true greatness is, so when they begin to argue, “which of them is the greatest,” Jesus tells them that they are wrong: true greatness does not come. ambition and power to dominate, but rather the ability to persuade others with nothing more than self-sacrificing love, “making oneself the servant of all”. This is what Jesus meant last Sunday when he said: “Whoever wants to come after me must take up his cross and follow me.” will save him. “
So I ask you: Who are the people who have had the most positive impact on your life? I bet those are the people who sacrificed the most for you. And how have they changed you – by coercion or by persuasion? I think of my parents. Of course, they had to discipline my bad behavior when they couldn’t reach me in any other way. The same is true for countries – diplomacy cannot do everything; we need an army. But all parents can do by force is force the outside to conform to what they want their child to do, presumably for his or her own good. But nothing really changes inside until the child changes their mind. Parents can influence – but ultimately have little control over – the choices their child will eventually make in adolescence and adulthood.
As a freshman at the University of Oklahoma, I had a straight classmate who went crazy with all kinds of wild behavior when he was no longer under his parents’ control and, by therefore, he failed. My parents had worked hard to instill strong values ââin my siblings and in myself, and they did so through the persuasive power of their own good example and many years of patient and dedicated love – and sometimes , that meant kissing the cross. We were not little angels. But even so, persuasion is far more effective than coercion – in our families and in the affairs of the world. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells you how to be truly great: âMake yourself last of all and servant of all.
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily on September 19.
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