Lost for Words
When a compatriot of mine killed fifty people at worship in mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on 15 March 2019, I had no words for the horror, the anger, the grief, the sadness. No words for the shame that one of us could do such a thing, no words for my steadfast belief that things do not have to be this way. New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, found the words to comfort and encourage her people.
The Passion Continues
Again, our hearts are breaking for people killed and many injured while at worship. The final death toll for those killed at churches and hotels on Easter Sunday in Columbo, Sri Lanka is yet to the reckoned.
During Holy Week, just concluded, Christians all over the world walked with Jesus the Way of the Cross. It is a drama that is always unfolding in time and space. As the Easter bombings in Columbo so cruelly remind us, Jesus continues to be crucified today.
Jesus is crucified in the victims of extremism that uses faith as a cover for hate and the lust for power. Jesus is stripped naked and humiliated in the children and vulnerable adults sexually abused in so many institutional settings, including our church. Jesus continues to be tortured in each person being tortured right now by political regimes that will not tolerate dissent and which supress human freedom. In these, and so many other ways, the via Crucis goes on. The whole of creation groans in pain from the violence of those who reject the Prince of Peace, as it awaits its resurrection.
Until the fullness of time, it is always Good Friday, but at the same time Easter Sunday.
Finding Words and Actions
As Easter people, Christians know that violence does not have the last word. Jesus is the Word and his death was not the end of the story. He is alive and active in the world today. Sometimes we catch a glimpse of him in small gestures of kindness – or in grand and hopeful efforts for world peace like the seminar on The Path of Nonviolence recently co-hosted by Pax Christi and the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development.
We are called to follow Jesus’ path beyond violence to new life. When we relinquish violence and vengeance, we refrain from crucifying one another. To be people of the resurrection, we need to find the words and actions that will take the crucified peoples down from their crosses. And we have to stop building crosses. We have to give up our addiction to violence and trust in the Prince of Peace.
As Cardinal Turkson said at the seminar on The Path of Nonviolence:
“Jesus’ resurrection was not a symbol of revenge, but rather a new life that brought the gift of new peace to his community and to the whole of the universe. The resurrection was in fact the ultimate symbol of the victory of love over evil, of active non-violence over violence, of the way of peace over the way of war and vengeance.”Cardinal Turkson, The Path of Nonviolence Seminar, 4-5 April 2019.
It is the hope of many who participated in the seminar that Pope Francis will find the words to effectively encourage Christian nonviolence in a new encyclical that would further develop Church teaching affirming nonviolence.
Peace Be Upon You
Jacinda Ardern recognised the power of the Arabic greeting As-Salaam-Alaikum, peace be upon you. Peace comes from just and loving relationships with one another, with creation, and with God. It is an insight shared by many faiths.
Let us wish peace upon one another, and work with steadfast love for it at every level.
22 April 2019