“Jesus taught us that the diabolical senselessness of violence is answered with God’s weapons, with prayer and fasting.” — Pope Francis
Lent 2022 was preoccupied with the madness of war, just as the previous two Lenten seasons were preoccupied with the dire consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. During these difficult Lenten seasons, we longed for the liberation, and the joy, of Easter, but some days it was hard to remember that Jesus always walks with us as we confront the evil all around us. As Easter people, we believe that Christ has conquered sin and death, but sometimes it’s not easy to see the light at the end of our long, dark tunnels.
Imagine living in Ukraine, Syria, Ethiopia or any other war-torn region of the world. To suddenly have your whole world turned upside down by the destruction and chaos caused by an invading army. Where is the joy of Easter to be found among the ruins of cities and the death and destruction of entire communities of people? Where can we find a true and lasting peace?
Surely the innocent victims of war ask themselves: “Why, O Lord? Why do you permit violence to destroy the peace and harmony of our lives? Where can we look for solace, for hope and for a return to the comforts of ordinary life?”
The Easter experience that we are now celebrating reminds us that we have been ransomed by the cross of Christ. The unending love of God has shattered the walls of our prisons and shown us the way out. Sin and death have been overcome by the selfless love of Christ, and no one ever has to be condemned to unending death again. This is why we rejoice in the cross of Christ, why we sing alleluias and why we give thanks to the risen Lord for the gift of His saving grace. We believe that in spite of the darkness that surrounds us we have been liberated by the risen Christ. As a result, no one can ever take away our fundamental rights or our dignity as the free daughters and sons of the living God!
Nevertheless, the images of sin and evil are relentless. Day in and day out, we witness the horrors of war and the evil consequences of sickness, natural disasters, political upheaval and social unrest. Like the victims of war, we can’t help but ask “Why, O Lord?” The answer is found, paradoxically, in the Cross of Christ. This is the only way to redemption. We can’t escape the senseless violence around us. We can only embrace it, as Jesus did, and allow God’s love and mercy to surround us with the gift of his saving grace.
As we begin this Easter season, let’s pray for peace in our hearts and in our world. And let’s take up our crosses and follow Jesus on the way to joy and lasting peace.
Dan Conway is a member of Holy Trinity Church, serves as a member of The Record’s editorial board and is a writer, consultant and stewardship educator.