Posted November 7, 2020
Today we remember those who gave their lives in the two World Wars and in more recent conflicts. We remember those who displayed unimaginable bravery in unspeakable circumstances. We remember the wounded, whose lives and limbs were shattered; and the bereaved, who with a knock on the door and a telegram suddenly found themselves deprived of their past and their future. We remember them all and pray for them today.
As a Christian community we are proud and humbled to join with our fellow citizens in remembering those who died, and in honouring their memory with feelings of reverence for their sacrifice. They gave everything for the sake of a better world, from which they were not to benefit.
But while we honour the war dead, still we cannot ignore our feelings of horror at the thought of war itself. We may not wish to go as far as Pope John XXIII when he said that ‘For a Christian who believes in Jesus and his Gospel, war is an iniquity and a contradiction.’ What is an iniquity and a contradiction is aggression; whereas to defend your country, your family, your children and your friends against aggression is a duty, even if that necessitates war. Still, war is always a sign of humanity’s fallen condition. There is something radically wrong with humankind that wars will never put right. Wars may help to remedy this or that situation but they cannot redeem human nature.
One appreciates the sober realism of the ancient historian Thucydides who, when chronicling the events of a war in his own day, stated that his purpose in writing was to enable his readers to ‘understand clearly the events that happened in the past and which, human nature being what it is, will, at some time or other, and in much the same ways, be repeated in the future.’ Some have understood the historian to be saying that war is mankind’s natural state, and peace is only ever an armistice in an endless war. Christians who began to formulate the doctrine of original sin some five hundred years after the lifetime of Thucydides were trying to express much the same view of mankind’s plight.
Among all the memories of past wars, let us not lose sight of deeper truths. It is not that we do not share with our fellow citizens grief at the agonies suffered by the war dead, and admiration and gratitude for their heroism; only that our specific Christian contribution to Remembrance Sunday is to plead with our Redeemer to remove from our hearts and from the world all that makes wars possible and inevitable. For all the sufferings and the heroism of the past have done nothing to remove the evil that remains.
Fr Tom Deidun