March 11March 11 Editorial: Praying for peace and the conversion of hardened hearts (March 11, 2022)

March 11, 2022

Editorial

Praying for peace and the conversion of hardened hearts

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father …” (Mt 5:43-45).

When a sovereign nation faces an unprovoked attack by its neighbor, it is hard to love your enemy.

When thousands of innocent women and children—including one reported as young as 18-months-old—are killed by bombs indiscriminately unleashed on civilians, it is hard to love your enemy.

When a nation doesn’t follow through on its agreement to observe a partial cease-fire so citizens in a neighboring country can escape what has become a war zone, it is hard to love your enemy.

The above Scripture passage from Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 5:43-45) comes to mind as we watch the death and destruction reigning down on Ukraine and its people by its Russian neighbor, specifically Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military forces.

And tragically, we see no signs as of yet that this war will come to an end any time soon as the fighting continues and we witness more than 1 million Ukrainian women and children fleeing their homeland, ending up as refugees in other countries.

There is history between Ukraine and Russia, but it should tell us something that thousands of Russian citizens recently took to the streets to protest Putin’s actions against their neighbor. Many were arrested for having the courage to stand up for what they believe are heinous and unjustified actions by the Russian leader. Thousands of other Russians continue to protest.

The U.S. and many other nations have also justifiably condemned Putin’s actions, and we must continue to provide all the aid we can to our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in harm’s way.

As a result of the developing humanitarian crisis, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ international policy committee urged the U.S. government “to provide all possible assistance to the people of Ukraine and to work closely with faith-based partners who are already on the ground providing emergency aid.”

Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Ill., chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace, on March 4 encouraged everyone “to give generously to organizations such as Catholic Relief Services [CRS] and [the] USCCB’s Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe that are bringing tangible relief and the hope of Christ to those in need.”

Donations to CRS, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency, can be made at cutt.ly/CRS4Ukraine. Information on how to give to the USCCB collection can be found at cutt.ly/ChurchCEEurope.

As we watch what is unfolding thousands of miles away, prayer must also unequivocally be an integral part of our response as we seek peace, not bombs, to reign again in that part of the world.

Pope Francis said the Vatican “is ready to do everything to put itself at the service of peace” in Ukraine.

“Rivers of blood and tears are flowing in Ukraine,” the pope said on March 6 as he led thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square in praying for peace after reciting the Angelus.

“War is madness! Stop, please! Look at this cruelty!” the pope added.

We believe a thirst for more power is at the heart of Putin’s actions, and our faith reminds us that power is one of the world’s greatest temptations. As Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron wrote in a recent Lenten reflection, “Power is extremely seductive. Many would gladly eschew material things or attention or fame in order to get it.

Bishop Barron reflected on the thirst for power in light of the story of Jesus’ temptation by the devil. When the devil offered Jesus worldly power, the Lord replied, “Get away, Satan” (Mt 4:10). Bishop Barron then noted that “to seek power is to serve Satan.”

We believe for the people of Ukraine—and for many beyond that part of the world—it is a challenge to pray for Putin and his military causing death and harm to countless innocent people. But as disciples of Jesus, we must extend our love to all humanity, yes, even to those who persecute their fellow man.

It is no easy task—especially at a time of what we believe is an unjust aggression—but as children of God, we must follow our Savior’s example.

And pray unceasingly, as Scripture suggests, that there is a conversion of hardened hearts and peace is reached as soon as possible in that part of the world, where light overcomes the darkness.

—Mike Krokos

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