The world is on its knees, not in subjugation but in prayer. Government leaders are facing empire building and total disregard for human rights in other leaders. Even shocked middle schoolers are calling it the start of World War III. The agony and suffering of the people of Ukraine is stirring the entire world to empathy. The pictures of them fleeing the country, sleeping in subways, having babies in basements and taking up arms is heart rending. Always in war, it is the ordinary people who bear the horror of it in their bodies and psyches.
Yet, we must look at all things with Christ and in Christ. No matter the emotional pull for revenge and retaliation and the urge to fight weapons with weapons, guns with guns, missiles with missiles, no matter the feeling that there is no other option, we must look at all things and all situations with Christ and in Christ.
And Jesus was perfectly clear about any recourse to violence. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5: 43, 44, 46)
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:26,27)
Pope Francis urged all of us on Sunday to “Silence all weapons. Those who wage war forget humanity.” He asked us to spend March 2 in prayer and fasting for peace. To oppose war is not to do nothing; rather it is to actively work for peace and justice.
There was a priest from Joliet, Illinois, Father Marty Jenco, who was captured by a radical group in Lebanon, tortured and imprisoned for over a year in the early 80s. When he returned from captivity, he preached love of enemies under all circumstances. One time, while he was speaking at a retreat in Rhode Island, he was challenged about love of enemies when innocent people were brutally killed. His comment was: “Since when do the words of Jesus need to be defended in his own Church?”
In the face of the terrible and tragic war being inflicted on Ukraine, we have no choice but to stand by the words of Jesus, words that he spoke with his nonviolent life, even enduring a violent death with love of his murderers on his lips.
Dorothy Day, the great Catholic intellectual and social activist of the last century, whose cause for canonization was introduced by Cardinal Dolan of New York, wrote these words in opposition to the declaration of war by President Roosevelt in 1941:
“We will print the words of Christ who is with us always.”
Sister Patricia McCarthy currently teaches Math at a Catholic School. For many years she taught troubled children and victims of abuse.