Image Credit: Gregory Gresko
The man embracing the foot of the cross in the Ukraine made the rounds of Catholic Twitter yesterday. I’ve been thinking of that image as I fall into my habit of consuming news like popcorn when world events feel too big to endure. What is the path to peace without appeasement? What is the right way to get the Russian army to leave and allow for the struggles and trials of self governance?
Will we stand with the bullied or watch and hope the underdog (Ukraine) wins out? What is the price of courage? It’s not an idle question as story after story reveals ordinary people digging in with extraordinary grit. I’m feeling the weight of it as my son nears his eighteenth birthday. Registering for the Selective Service suddenly seems more than symbolic. It becomes a reminder of the potential cost of freedom.
In the meantime, as we who are not surrounded by physical enemies watch a people try to not go gentle into that good night, what we can do? The witness is there on the news: It is kindness in the face of violence –treating the injured of the invaders at the hospital. It is patience in the face of stress –the fathers and brothers and sons standing patrolling after dark to keep those sheltered safe. It is standing in front of the tank so it doesn’t run over your neighbor. It is reporting the truth and protesting for the truth when there is actual risk. It is being willing to see the reality, and to seek to make it more bearable. The absence of courage, of patience, of willingness to do when all seems lost, leads to greater evil for the souls so disposed, and despair for those who might otherwise, be part of the remedy. If they can do this when the threat is visible, how much more must we do who sit in warm rooms without such worries?
Embracing the cross means facing what the world does when we show courage, when we speak, when we share, when we heal, when we seek to be peace makers, when we offer mercy. It may reject all of that –as we did then. We may wind up on the cross if we come to close. It is the reality of love –love involves always a cross, always a sacrifice of something of our self love. That’s what makes it so beautiful, so powerful, so capable of breaking even hearts of stone, and raising those whose spirits until then, felt dead.
What can we do here? 1) Be willing to sacrifice something for those who are suffering. (Lent is coming this Wednesday). Let’s get a jump on it.
2) Pray for peace. Pray each time there is a new development. Why? Because prayer works. I remember right after Pope Francis received the honor of the seat of Peter, war seemed inevitable in Lebanon. The Pope asked people of good will across the world to pray for peace. Overnight, the danger, the threat, the reality of war that seemed so inevitable evaporated, as if it never were. The pope is asking us this Wednesday to pray for peace in the Ukraine. The hearts changed may be our own which we did not know needed to be changed. We don’t see those planks in our eyes, just everyone else’s splinters.
3) Pretend it’s the year of Mercy again, and offer it to whosoever wrongs you this Lent. It is a means of following Christ. It is not ignoring bullies, it is revealing even to the bully, a better way. Pray for Putin, pray for those arrested. Pray for those doing the arresting. Pray for those who do not recognize the evil they do, and most especially for those who do. Pray for them to know God’s mercy.
Tangible things you can do –because some of us just have to Martha our way through everything…and I know, I’m one of them:
There are more, but this is a starting point. You can also write Congress, the President and your local paper, to give your two cents about what we as a country should do and why. It’s easier to turn off the television, dive into a book or Wordle, and scroll past, but that’s how we wind up with people with their hands holding their heads wondering why the world doesn’t burn already. We want the world to know a Spring of Joy, which means, we have to get to the hard work of both carrying and helping others carry their cross.