On Thursday, February 24, 2022, Russian forces invaded Ukraine. It is ironic that this despicable act of aggression was initiated on a Thursday, the day when in the Rosary we contemplate the mysteries of light.
The worsening situation in Ukraine, as Pope Francis aptly described it during a recent heartfelt appeal given after a Catechesis concerning the meaning and value of old age, is a reality that hurts as all. How can we fathom that, in the 21st century, autocratic rulers simply impose their fisted will on other people’s destiny and aspirations? Is this acceptable? Is this human? Does it promote the dignity of God’s children which we all have? Pope Francis’ appeal makes heaps of sense when he said: I would like to appeal to those with political responsibility to examine their consciences seriously before God, who is the God of peace and not of war; who is the Father of all, not just of some, who wants us to be brothers and not enemies.
Real Christians do not instigate and go for war. These are not Christians at all. In the vision of Pope Francis, war is the suicide of humanity because it kills the heart and kills love. When a war tank veers into a civilian car and then backs over it, do you think that is humanity? When people’s houses are targeted by rockets, is this a sign of a loving heart? When people are rendered as refugees due to an act of an unjust aggressive act of war, is this love? It is beautiful to kiss icons and venerate them. But if we fail to venerate Jesus in his living icon, the human person, then our religion is false and deceptive.
The great Pope St John Paul II, in his annual peace message for the celebration of the Word Day of Peace, of January 1, 2002, blatantly said without mincing the least his words:
No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness: this is what in this Message I wish to say to believers and non-believers alike, to all men and women of good will who are concerned for the good of the human family and for its future. No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness: this is what I wish to say to those responsible for the future of the human community, entreating them to be guided in their weighty and difficult decisions by the light of man’s true good, always with a view to the common good. No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness: I shall not tire of repeating this warning to those who, for one reason or another, nourish feelings of hatred, a desire for revenge or the will to destroy (no.15).
Futile is religiosity without working for justice and forgiveness. It is immediately unmasked and doomed to fail miserably. While it is good to build churches, the real church is built when we treat other Christians with love, respect and protect their lives, not destroy it at our whims. How right was the Patriarch Kirill when, in his statement on the war in Ukraine of February 24, 2002, he said: The Russian and Ukrainian peoples have a common centuries-old history dating back to the Baptism of Rus’ by Prince St. Vladimir the Equal-to-the-Apostles. I believe that this God-given affinity will help overcome the divisions and disagreements that have arisen that have led to the current conflict.
Within this context, the message given to the world by Our Lady of Medjugorje, given on March 25, 2022, makes heaps of sense: Dear children! I am with you and we pray together. Help me with prayer, little children, that satan may not prevail. his power of death, hatred, and fear has visited the earth. Therefore, little children, return to God and to prayer, to fasting and to renunciation, for all those who are downtrodden, poor, and have no voice in this world without God. Little children, if you do not return to God and His Commandments, you do not have a future. That is why He sent me to you to guide you. Thank you for having responded to my call.
God’s commandments never tell us to impose ourselves on others, control them, threaten them, and kill them but respect their freedom as children of God as we are. They encourage us to leave them shape their lives according to their deep-seated convictions, not ours. The first type of behaviour, namely that of oppression and aggression is certainly Satanic. He does so. He kills people and subjugates their will to his. On the contrary, Christ, the Icon of the Father, gives us freedom and the wisdom to make the right choices in our lives. This is justice and peace. This is what we really need in Ukraine, Russia, and in every country of the world. It is for this that we pray in the Our Father.
After all, if we really want to have justice and peace in our world we have to follow what St Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Gal 2:20). It is Christ who gives us his spirit, whose fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Are not these fruits the real guarantors of justice and peace in Ukraine and the world?