The prophecy of presence

Each day I read the news and view the pictures coming out of Ukraine in the hope of some glimmer of movement towards a resolution of the conflict. And each day the situation just gets worse.

There was a time when Europe was a theatre of constant war but we thought that ended with the 20th century. Yet here we are again, in a war that has no reasonable purpose and which brings untold suffering to millions. Cardinal Michael Czerny has been sent with a colleague to visit Ukraine and express Pope Francis’ sorrow and closeness to the people.

Czerny says, ‘I go above all to meet people, to be with them: this is the prophecy of a presence and a closeness that may appear weak, even insignificant according to the logic of the world and the force of arms. But this is not the case: being close to his people, to his children who suffer, is the way that God has chosen to enter into the history of the world. Even at the cost of ending up on the cross. A symbol of this way of God is the great wooden crucifix that, in recent days, was moved from the Armenian Cathedral of Lviv and taken to a bunker in the hope of saving it from the fury and madness of war. In bunkers, cellars and improvised shelters there are many people who address their prayers to that crucified Lord.’

This is an agony for the Ukrainian people. And since it is up there, the first item on the news, every day we are constantly reminded of it. And we are utterly puzzled and saddened by the madness of it. Militarily the Russians are advancing but there is no way they will win the hearts and minds of the Ukrainian people. So why do they even try? They cannot win this thing in the long run. No one ever accepts the loss of their freedom – even if they are forced to for a while.

The cardinal reminds us, ‘being close to his people … is the way God has chosen.’ A mother by the bed of her dying child can do nothing but be close to them. She shares in the suffering and our belief is that sharing and suffering is not in vain. Mary stood by the cross, weeping. But the time came when everything would become clear and her tears would be turned into joy. That time is still far off, it seems, for the people of Ukraine, of Tigray or anywhere else where people are suffering so much.

But we can ‘be present’ to them in the only way we can.

March 13, 2022

Post published in: Faith

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