Finding Peace in a Troubled world
We are living in increasingly uncertain times. Some might say that the drums of war are beating in our world and if you listen, you can hear that they are louder today than they were yesterday and possibly they will be tomorrow.
Across our screens in recent times, the images of the events that have occurred in Ukraine have shocked and angered us. They’ve saddened us. They’ve disappointed us and alarmed us. The images on our screens have been simply heart-wrenching. Destruction and sadness have come to the cities and towns of Ukraine.
Just weeks ago, life was quiet and at peace and people and families were going about their everyday lives. They were getting married. They were giving birth. They were going to work. They were taking their children to school. They were spending time with friends. They were living in retirement homes. They were worshipping God. They were busy with the hustle and bustle of everyday life. They were simply doing what people like you and I do all the time before death and separation, seemingly needless destruction of homes, buildings and people’s way of life was thrust upon them. The tragic pictures of people uprooted from their lives has caused us to be horrified and angry.
If we are truthful, it feels so far away to most of the world. We have all sadly watched women and their children walking away from all they’ve ever possessed and known and walking into uncertainty. All of us have seen the heartbreaking scenes of mothers inconsolable as they leave their sons behind to fight and wives departing their husbands, not knowing if they will see each other again, and children wrapping their arms around their fathers as they leave.
Who is going to fight? They are shopkeepers and schoolteachers, carpenters and accountants, engineers and taxi drivers, bankers and scientists. They are people like you and me. Many of them are men who have never raised a hand in violence, never picking up a weapon to defend themselves and it is something they have never known. They are filled with fear knowing that they are untrained for the rigors and for the brutality of war.
I saw one woman break down crying saying, “I just want to go home to my home. I want to go back to my job, but it’s not there anymore.” There are images of elderly people barely able to walk outside in the cold, trying to leave the chaos, but at a pace that they will never get far without help.
What is happening in Ukraine is not unique. As long as humankind has existed, conflict between individuals, groups of people and nations, have existed. War began way back at the time of the creation, the fight between good and evil in the garden between the will of God and that of the serpent. We look and we see the murder of Abel by his brother Kane, the sons of Adam and Eve, the oppression of the Jews in Egypt for 430 years when they were in captivity and then Moses got them out. Then they had to fight to win the promised land because it was occupied.
The fall of the kingdom of Israel was violent. Then the conquest of the Romans, to name just a few of the empires of the many through history that have overrun the world again and again. Innocent people have suffered every time. Colonialism annihilated indigenous peoples in the name of kings and queens and the expansion of empires. In the last hundred years of wars, there has been ethnic cleansing, and today, all over the world, there are wars scattered in places that we don’t see. If we were to list all the current wars going on today, and then those throughout history, it would be so extensive we wouldn’t have enough time to do it.
Certainly, here today, whether it’s a civil war in Africa, a conflict in Europe, strife in the middle east or the war on terror, war is not going away. Human beings find themselves in conflict, whether it’s the fight in the school playground, the argument over the fence, the conflict in the boardroom or the disagreement in the bedroom, war and conflict is not going away. When it comes to conflict between nations, depending on who’s involved and the breath of the impact of that conflict, will determine whether most of us ever see it on our screens.
War and rumors of war will not end with the scriptures. It will not end in our lifetime. You know why it won’t end? It won’t end because humankind is sinful. It won’t end because humankind is frail. It won’t end because human beings are self-interested and selfish. It won’t end because evil is real. The aggressor always seeks power over someone else. They seek advantage over their opponent. They lust after the wealth and resources and opportunities that belong to another, and they want them for themselves.
Growing up as a boy, I was raised and conditioned to believe that our nation and nations similar to us, of similar government philosophies and structure, meant that we were right, and others were wrong. Other people who were different were wrong. We, somehow, were the good guys and everybody else was somehow the bad guys. They were evil. That is simplistic. It is narrow. It’s immature thinking and yet most of humanity in some way, falls into the belief and thinking that somehow their way of living is the right way. The world was different in its thinking back then compared to now.
Then something happened to me that I didn’t expect, and it was linked to the ministry life that I do. The ministry grew from countries just around me that I knew to being much bigger and going out to new places and with new people. They are people like you and me, some of whom have different government political systems, some who have different values to me and to you. Some who have a different way of life. They dress differently. They like different food. They do different things and what I’ve discovered, in talking with them and listening to them, even praying with them, that they are so similar to me. They are similar to you. They love their family. They seek security. They want peace. They want to advance in their quality of life. They want to be able to create and grow. So much of what I saw when I was a boy, I was conditioned to see through the media, through the education system and even my own family that I was raised in was the world through the tinted glasses of prejudice and a narrow worldview that said I was right. That the way we did things was right.
I lacked vision. I lacked understanding, but most of all, I lacked seeing the world through the eyes of faith. What I have come to see is that Christians have to see differently. We must see a bigger picture, a different way. Defending yourself and those you love is acceptable, but it does come at a cost. All over the world, there are countries engaging right now in arms races against each other, more weapons, bigger weapons, more sophisticated weapons are what the world is trapped in right now. Its desired effect is that it will keep back the tyrant, subdue the aggressor, which is what we are seeing in Ukraine. I’ve had numerous conversations in recent days with people in different places and what I’ve heard people say consistently is people are frightened and fearful because we don’t know what to do.
We don’t know what we can contribute to what’s happening. I’ve also heard people say consistently that they feel helpless. They don’t know what they can contribute because of this war. They feel too small. They feel powerless. They feel inadequate to make a difference. So what should we do when we feel that way? What should we do when we feel frightened? What should we do when we feel fearful and we don’t know what to do?
- We need to look to God rather than people or the circumstances we face for comfort, for strength, support, for hope, and for peace.
- We need to listen to God’s voice for guidance and direction. God does speak. God is not silent today. God’s word, his voice is alive. If we are people of the Word of God, how does God speak? He speaks through the Scriptures. He speaks through the wisdom of the Church, its leadership, its history. He speaks in our conscience if we listen.
- We need to seek the intervention of God concerning the cause of this conflict, what’s happening right now in Ukraine.
- We need to pray for God to move in the hearts of people who are the ones who are causing this war by their free will choices. We need to pray for all those affected by the war, especially the victims, families, and all the military personnel that are involved. We need to turn our eyes to God. We need to pray. We need to pray for peace all over the world.
In the Catechism of the Catholic church, it says that:
‘Peace is not merely the absence of war and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among people, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples and the assiduous (persevering and attentive) practice of fraternity (relationship). Peace is the tranquility of order.’
Isn’t that beautiful? ‘Peace is the tranquility of order.’ Peace is the work of justice and the effect of charity, which is love. What the church is saying to us is that we need to seek peace but it must be free. It is people who cause wars and it is people who can stop wars and it is people who can and will pick up the pieces of life in the aftermath of the conflict and restore and rebuild and be the agents of healing and be the maintainers of peace.
So, when we are sitting here and asking, ‘What can we do so far away? Our hearts are breaking as we watch our television screens. We are horrified by what we see but what can we do?” As I have said, we can pray that God would move people to use their free will choices to choose peace.
How do we pray?
Lord, God we put this need before you and we ask Lord, God that you would work right now.
We need to passionately put our need before God.
Pray regularly and consistently for peace each day.
Go to mass or church more than normal. Pray extra prayers like the rosary.
- Dependent on God
God is the only one who could fix this and will use human beings to do so.
So, our prayer must be passionate, consistent, long lasting and dependent on God.
What can we do?
We can be agents of peace, where we are. We might be far away from the conflict, not able to influence it and yet we are part of the family of humanity made up by God, designed by God in a spiritual way.
What can you do to bring peace into the world? You can bring peace in your family, in the place of your work, among your friends, in your marriages.
You might ask, what good does that do for Ukraine? The reality is most of us are too far away and there is not much we can do for Ukraine. We certainly can pray but we are part of this community that’s called humanity. We are part of the body of Christ, but we are part of something far bigger, far more spiritual than what we see and our personal holiness, our personally seeking after God makes a difference.
Be assured that I will be praying passionately, consistently, long-lasting and dependent on God for peace with you!