“As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.
The Christian community is sent out into the world on a mission that will lead, ultimately, back to the Father’s house. It is also a mission fraught with risk. As the Christian world celebrated the Paschal Mystery, the suffering, death and resurrection into glory of Jesus Christ and the central mystery of our faith, the resilience of the Christian body in two very different parts of the world has been severely tested these last few days.
The first incident was the disastrous fire which destroyed much of the roof of the Cathedral of Our Lady (Notre Dame) of Paris. The second, far graver incident was the slaughter of more than 300 persons in a wave of bombings in Sri Lanka, most of whom were worshippers at Easter services.
Jesus Christ continues to be crucified in the men and women whose lives were snuffed out by the
assassins in suicide vests. In the children killed, some of First Communion age, some possibly too young to have uttered their first word, a new slaughter of the innocents has taken place in Sri Lanka.
Once again “A voice is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children, she refuses to be consoled, because they are no more”
Now, it seems, more than ever before, what is at issue, what is being tested in Sri Lanka and everywhere that Christians are killed and persecuted, is the resolve
of the Christian community to remain faithful to its central convictions, true to the teaching of its master who had a peculiar, counter-cultural view on enmity and violence.
Indeed, for most Christians, this is the most difficult part of Jesus’ preaching. He said: “You have heard that it was said ’An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’But I say to you, do not resist an evil-doer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also” (Matt 5:38—39).
And again “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your father in heaven; for he makes the sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt 5:44W5).
Jesus calls a spade a spade. In these two sayings evil is named for what it is. What is rejected, at an
ethical level, are not simply evil actions but the logic of violence. In the face of violence, if the only path forward is more violence, ‘an eye for an eye’, no civilisation will be possible.
To refuse the logic of violence for us Christians is not weakness but strength. It takes strength to prefer to suffer violence than inflict it on others. Love takes real strength and self-control.
Violence on the other hand is driven too often by the winds of emotion and fuelled by the empty promises of wild-eyed ideologues. It is our faith that the martyrs of Sri Lanka, through the power of Christ’s Paschal Mystery will have life restored to them.
In Paris meanwhile, the debate fuelled by the generosity of large donors to the restoration of the Cathedral seems, in the minds of many to have placed a (false) opposition between taking care of human beings (especially the poor) and taking care of valued cultural artifacts.
It is important to avoid the mentality which says that all the poor need are ‘food and condoms’. As one article in the Houston Catholic Worker put it, partly quoting Dorothy Day: “The world will be saved by beauty. If all the world’s corporal suffering were eradicated tomorrow, we would still need hope, joy, and peace. We would still need beauty.”