Red Poppy

Red Poppy November 12, 2012

May the just warriors be happy today and may the saints amongst the soldiers rejoice in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus often used “hard sayings” to stir his audience. Two thousand years after his life we sometimes do not hear his hard sayings, because we have “over-learned” the lesson. When Jesus said it was hard for the rich to be saved, he was speaking in a culture that thought virtue and wealth always went together.

They do not, but neither do poverty and virtue. Poverty can give the illusion of discipline when want is the only reason for moderation!

Nobody is saved  by their material status: not the poor and not the rich.

Peacemakers in an oppressed culture like Jews in Jesus’ time were seen as cowards or compromisers and often they were. When the Jewish elite preached peace, it was often so they could keep their comfortable jobs as house slaves for the Roman masters. But Jesus reminded his audience (including his Zealot follower) that peacemakers can be happy.

We are headed for peace and not for war. Jesus is fundamentally the Prince of Peace. No Christian can rejoice in warfare and all Christians must pray for peace, but it is one thing to pray for peace in dark times and another to pretend peace is possible when it is not.

From Michael the Archangel fighting with the Heavenly Host to the armed monks of Greece the Church reluctantly has been willing to fight.  Peacemaking at the wrong time is a bad thing. We are not yet in heaven. Particularly in a comfortable “first world” state, the peacemaker avoids the hard and traumatic labor of protecting the innocent this side of Paradise. Images of sheep and shepherds and pastoral idylls should be balanced by the “hard parts” of Scripture where God declares war on injustice not just in the sky by and by, but now.

We have fought unjustly, see the Fourth Crusade, but the Church condemns the injustice without taking the easy way out of avoiding any possibility of war.

Of course the fundamental battle is never against flesh and blood, the death of any man or woman, even our worst enemy is a loss, but sometimes it is better that they die. Christians never go to war lightly. We want peace, but will fight. Pacifism has existed in the Church, but is and always has been a fringe position.

The red poppy on my jacket today reminds me that war is terrible and it does horrible things to the men who fight. They fought and suffered so I can be free and make peace. We have no holiday this side of Paradise for peacemakers, because peacemaking is its own reward. The peacemaker gets a fortaste of the peace of heaven in his actions.

Those that bear the sword do not do so in vain, but they suffer. They fight, if they fight justly, so others can live. They experience none of the joys of peace so others can. We do not glorify what they do, we regret their deeds are necessary, but we rejoice in the men and women who do it.

The just warrior is celebrated, not the war. The peace they won is glorified, not the battle that made the just peace possible. No war this side of paradise brings a perfect peace, but the man who will not fight must remember that no peace is perfect either. Every warrior may be tainted by hatred, but every pacifist lurks near cowardice and convenience.

There is no perfect man or woman.

All the more reason to have a holiday, a holy day, to celebrate the just warriors and to remind ourselves that evil must be resisted. My bishop tells of a monastery in Eastern Europe where the nuns were being raped by evil soldiers. The eldest sister got a machine gun and placed it at the door and the rapes were stopped.

This warrior put her life on the line to save the innocent. Blessed is she!

The calendar of the Church is full of warrior saints who died rather than renounce their faith and lived hard lives so others could know the fruits of peace.

Blessed are the just warriors for in their defense of the innocent they will see God.

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