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Russia-Ukraine: Where is God in war? | Love Digest

Julian Paparella

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Photo by Tina Hartung on Unsplash
The eyes of the world are fixed on Ukraine. Our hearts turn to our fellow human beings under brutal attack. Terrible tragedies like this beg the question: Where is God?
Though it is difficult to grasp, God is not absent. God is there. God is weeping. God is on the side of those who suffer and hears their cry. Our God is not fair-weather or disconnected. He does not live in faraway palaces or luxury yachts. God is in the midst of suffering, at the very heart of the traumas and tragedies of the world.
There is no doubt that God accompanies the Ukrainian families that are forced to flee and separate. God mourns over the many lifeless corpses that leave us numb. At the same time, God gives courage to the people of Russia who dare to protest in the face of cruelty, risking their freedom to say no to war. God works to move negotiations forward on the path to peace. God inspires journalists and camera operators who put their lives on the line to capture the reality of what people are going through.
History shows us that it is often in the most crushing darkness that God shines the most radiant light. We can think of the dark cell of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Auschwitz, sacrificing himself to save the life of his fellow prisoner. In the heart of horror, God responds by shining a ray of love.
The modus operandi of God is not simply to observe the suffering of the world as an indifferent bystander. God makes Himself close. He Himself tells us: “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you” (Isaiah 41:10). His faithfulness is not extinguished by the darkness of the world: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:2). God opens a way even where there is none. The life that God gives us conquers even death itself.
Indeed, God so desires to be close to us that He becomes human, suffers as we do, and shares our death. This was on the mind and heart of Cardinal Michael Czerny as he headed to Ukraine on behalf of Pope Francis and all Christians: “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.” The Creator of the universe was born as a persecuted baby under a ruthless regime of oppression. The Holy Family was forced to flee their homeland, threatened by the bloodthirsty King Herod. Christ was put to death under the flag of the Roman empire. Jesus declared the persecuted “blessed” (Matthew 5:10-11). The victory of the resurrection opens a path of life even in the grip of death.
Here and now, the Risen Jesus comes to redeem even the most helpless situations. Jesus does not take up weapons. His weapon is love. Christ does not massacre our enemies. He changes hearts. The path of Christ passes through our desire for a better tomorrow and a more united world. The peace of Christ leads us to true freedom, far greater than the mere absence of oppression.
“Rivers of blood and tears are flowing in Ukraine.” There are not only human tears: God’s tears mix with ours. The blood being shed is not only that of soldiers and civilians but also the blood of Christ that comes to redeem our deepest misery and suffering.
Jesus carries the cross of the Ukrainian people with them. He calls us to do the same. Will we be Simon of Cyrene to the men, women, and children of Ukraine – by our prayers, our solidarity, and our financial and material support? God is with them, and He wants to come to their aid through you and me. Let us dare to be an “unarmed army, committed to rebuilding that humanity which weapons try to destroy”.
Jesus, by the Blood of Your Cross, heal the wounds of those who suffer. Make Your peace take root in hardened hearts to end the horror of war. Mary, Queen of Ukraine, Queen of Peace, pray for our Ukrainian brothers and sisters!
Julian would be happy to hear from you, with any questions, insights, or suggestions you may have regarding this blog series. He can be reached at [email protected].

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