Reflection: who has the right of way? Our readings this Sunday remind us that when we try to follow the nonviolent Jesus our world and values will be turned upside down

August 22, 2016

Recently, while taking a routine driver’s awareness course for my community, I came across this phrase, “You only have the right of way if the other driver gives you the right of way.” I have thought of this many times when I encounter aggressive drivers on the road. One unexpected consequence of remembering this phrase is feelings of peacefulness and calm while driving.  

Our readings this Sunday remind us that when we try to follow the nonviolent Jesus our world and values will be turned upside down. Power, pride and social status were just as important to people in biblical times as they are today. Self-sufficiency, ambition and egoism are values ingrained in the social structures of our culture. Advertising and our economic system thrive on greed and self-absorption. We probably can all think of a time when we may have been personally humiliated by assuming “the place of honor at the table.”  

Saint Francis wanted his followers to be “minores,” to differentiate them from those who have wealth and power. Francis wanted his followers to always be aware of their total dependency on God. The good we possess is a gift from God and the good that we do is only through God. We may wince at words such as dependency or minority and may tend to avoid any situation where we may be given “the lowest seat at the table.” We can only practice humility on a daily basis with God’s help. In her book the Humility of God, Ilia Delia writes that Saint Bonaventure describes the humility of God as God “plunging in the darkness of humanity to meet us where we are, in our violence.”

Gandhi taught that “the spirit of nonviolence necessarily leads to humility.” How different would our homes, our roads, our society, our politics be if we each practiced nonviolence, attempted to respond to situations in a nonviolent manner, for even an hour each day? The Franciscan Action Network website offers suggestions on active nonviolence.

Thomas Merton wrote that when he made the decision to try to act in a nonviolent manner he began by closing doors gently. Perhaps we can begin by remembering that when driving “you only have the right of way if the other driver gives you the right of way.”

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board of Directors