Woe to the bloody city
Woe to the bloody city, all lies,
full of plunder, whose looting never stops!
The crack of the whip,
the rumbling sounds of wheels...
These words seem to resonate strongly today and there are some people who might point to a particular city or a particular ideology as being the modern fulfillment of this prophecy.
It is always risky, of course, to tie Scripture to one's geopolitics: to think automatically that we and our friends are the Chosen People and our opponent is the bloody city full of lies.
Ultimately, this passage reminds us that no matter how awesome and fearful earthly power may be, whether we are the victims or the victors, God's power is even greater.
This message is reinforced by the verses from which today's Responsorial is taken: most especially Deuteronomy 32:39 (slightly truncated in the Lectionary).
Learn then that I, I alone, am God,
and there is no god besides me.
It is I who bring both death and life,
I who inflict wounds and heal them,
and from my hand there is no rescue.
Victim or victorious, fearful or confident, we are all in the hands of God, whose ways may sometimes seem depressingly unfathomable, but who is himself infinitely merciful and inescapably just.
Yet we cannot be passive. We must fulfill our responsibilities as people in society, as members of families, as fellow human beings and - most importantly - as people of faith.
We must also remember the truest road to peace: laid before us in today's Gospel (Matthew 16:24-28).
Whoever wishes to come after me
must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life
will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
will find it.
What profit would there be
for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come
with his angels in his Father's glory,
and then he will repay each
according to his conduct.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, be merciful to me - a sinner.
(adapted from an earlier post)