Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth. Psalm 72
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany. Today, we remember that Jesus comes into our history, into our broken world and interrupts injustice, bringing hope and life to all of us. Jesus is the Prince of Peace.
But where are you now Jesus? Things are not good in the world. Feeling panic quietly creep in. Last night I slept on the couch of a quiet ski condo in Keystone, and I woke up in the middle of the night and stared out the window at the sharp icy stars surrounding the silhouette of a glowing snowy mountain. I could not stop thinking about Iran, about the Australian fires, about the anti-semitism in our country.
My heart aches a dull, constant ache. I stared at those stars, my insides feeling just as icy. I am someone who looks for hope in all situations. But I cannot stop this quiet panic. I feel helpless. I am helpless, in a way. I cannot stop world leaders from inflicting violence. I cannot stop the president of the United States from spending $2 TRILLION on military equipment when people don’t have healthcare or food or shelter. We can pay for war but can’t feed the poor.
“Many powerful people do not want peace because they live off war. Some powerful people make their living with the production of arms. This is the industry of death.” —Pope Francis
I realize with a deep sadness that the world I am living in, the years that lie ahead of me, are going to be deeply challenging and full of injustice. The industry of death prevails. The climate is worsening and people will suffer terribly, and soon. Where is hope? Where is God?
The three condemned prisoners together stepped onto the chairs. In unison, the nooses were placed around their necks.
“Long live liberty!” shouted the two men.
But the boy was silent.
“Where is merciful God, where is He?” someone behind me was asking.
At the signal, the three chairs were tipped over.
Behind me, I heard the same man asking: “For God’s sake, where is God?”
And from within me, I heard a voice answer:
“Where He is? This is where—hanging here from this gallows…”
—Elie Wiesel, Night
God is here in this gallows.
I’m scared. I’m scared for the future of global warming, the devastation of the planet. Devastation for drones killing innocent human beings, our siblings who are made in the Image of God.
And what am I doing in all of this? I am trying to be happy, enjoying time in Keystone with my family next to a cozy fire, safe and sound. Free from the danger of bombs. But somewhere in the world there is a 22-year-old like me, looking up at sharp icy stars, who is afraid she will die from a drone tonight, afraid her loved ones will die. Her heartbeat quickens at the thought. She fights back tears, fights back a scream. It is immediate for her. And from my comfy couch, I feel a sense of guilt in this, that she has to feel this and live the reality of war while I can simply read about it on my iPhone. I want to stand in solidarity with her so badly, I want to stand in solidarity with all whose very lives are threatened by terrorism and violence and corrupt world leaders. How do I stand in solidarity from the other side of the world?
If justice ultimately comes down to policy change… that often seems hopeless to me. Policy change is desperately needed but I have such little faith left in those who implement change. I try to do what I can (signing petitions, donating money, praying, etc.), but it often feels like it doesn’t get anywhere. How do I love my neighbor when they are halfway around the world, my neighbor who I only know and encounter through a statistic, a news article, a story maybe, sometimes a photo, but more often, they are just a number on a page?
Who will console me? My insides are churning and I have dull achy feeling in my chest. Who will console me? And so I do the thing that doesn’t feel like enough, but is the only thing I feel I can do in these hopeless and terrifying moments. I pray. I don’t say that in any hollow or superficial way. I pray with my breath, with my tears. I pray with the blood pumping in my veins, with every heartbeat. I pray because I literally don’t know what else to do.
I pray because I know God is in this gallows, that God is on the side of the oppressed ones, and through prayer I hope that I somehow can stand in solidarity, that my heartbrokenness and love might reach the other side of the world, even if just for a millisecond, in my desperate prayers to the God I love but that I have a hard time putting faith in right now. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. And it is with this knowledge I pray. Jesus died at the hands of a violent regime. Jesus died from the logic of a violent nationstate. Jesus is the one being bombed.
I pray for peace. I pray for Iranians, my fellow human beings. I pray for the land and humans and animals in Australia. I pray for the people the news doesn’t talk about but who are suffering in their own ways. Let love and peace prevail. I believe, with the tiniest little sliver of hope left in me, that it is possible for peace to prevail in the world. We can create life without war. We cannot forget this. It IS possible. We can create life without war. We need a new imagination to think and talk about peace, of the possibility of a just future.
Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful arduous pursuit of justice. —Shane Claiborne
God, I am trusting in your promise of love. Everything in me wants to give up. Thank you for breaking my heart for what I know breaks yours so much more. I need a constant reminder. A reminder that it is important to speak out against these evils. To fight for justice. To practice peace, the careful arduous pursuit of justice.
Please continue to challenge me. Always remind me of my comfort and privilege so that I might truly take up my cross and be a Christian. I need you God. I pray for peace. Dorothy Day, pray for us. Thomas Merton, pray for us. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., pray for us.
I’m taken back as I write this to what I felt just a few days ago at a beautiful Christmas Eve mass. Kneeling before the Eucharist, I was so moved by the radicality of the Christmas message, the Christmas reality. I felt the full weight of it all, just for a second. My heart was pierced with an unspeakable love and sense of urgency. God became human, a human on the outskirts of society.
There is so much hope in that, and I don’t think we really understand or comprehend this, because if we did our world would look so much different. I had just barely scratched the surface of something so real and true and life-giving, so utterly powerful, a reality that spins the Earth off its axis, a force of good (the only good) in the world. The good news remains good news in a severely broken world, a world of violence and war and torture and devastation.
This is such a mystery. I still don’t know what to make of it or what it means. Somewhere in all of this, Jesus remains the Good News. We have within us the power to love one another. It is possible to love because we are not the origin of that love. Hope is found in specific moments, moments where love and peace win. Moments where we love one another. It is possible. Our courage for peace must be stronger than courage others have for war.
God, forgive my sins of complacency in evil. I’m scared. Give me courage in my last semester of college, give me courage to fight this fight for justice my whole life. Give me courage to write, courage to speak out against injustice. I am feeling small. I am small, I am insignificant, but this is an important and holy task, this living a just life. It is impossible, but none of us are let off the hook. We must work toward this always. Especially as followers of Christ, this is a cross we must carry, to stand in solidarity and practice peace, practice justice. As Thomas Merton said, if we want to work for peace, we need to address the fear and violence in our own hearts first. To carry our crosses so that we might create life without war.
Take what is left of me
And make it a melody
Sing out loud
I can’t the words to sing
Come be my remedy
I’ll sing with what’s left of me
Take my sadness, take my anger and make it holy. I don’t know what that means yet. But I am here. Here I am Lord. Use me.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.