“Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.”
These words of Jesus, in Luke 19:42, are as poignant and as applicable to our world today as they were to the city of Jerusalem, when Our Lord wept over it before His passion.
Our world is embroiled in war and violence. Truly, despite the lack of formal declarations, the whole world is at war. Pope Francis, in reflecting on the same verse of scripture, preached that God weeps over the worldwide violence of today, for which “there is no justification”.
The Church herself is no stranger to war, no stranger to violent men slaughtering her children, to forces plotting to destroy her. In fact she has rarely (if ever) been without such threats. But with each generation, the people of God must face anew the violence of the world, however it manifests.
We shouldn’t fear for the Church in such times. Our Lord’s promise has been proven good through more terrible times than ours, and time and again the bride of Christ has been upheld, even when the odds were against her. Instead, we should look to our own souls, and the work with which God has entrusted us in our broken world.
In an interview published on November 13th, 2015, the same day as the terrorist attacks in Paris, Canada’s new defence minister, Harjit Sajjan, said that Canadians have no need to fear ISIS.
“ISIS is a threat, no doubt about that. Should we fear it? No. The Canadian population should have full confidence in all the security services to keep us safe.”
In terms of our physical safety, the statement was a bit dubious even before France – a far more powerful country than Canada – was powerless to stop a multi-pronged attack on their capital city. After all, it was only a year ago that a lone ISIS-inspired drug-addict with a gun breached the security of our parliament buildings and nearly reached our cabinet.
But in a sense, the defence minister is right.
Our Lord says in Matthew 10:28, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
If we in the West truly believed our Lord’s words, we would fear our own sins, rather than temporal murderers like the Islamic State.
In a recent article, Marc Barnes of BadCatholic wrote about the essential role of theology in the fight against ISIS. He points out what has been increasingly clear – that our political leaders, and secular society in general, have little understanding of the Islamists they face, and no capacity to challenge the source of the issue; bad theology.
This really gets at the heart of the issue for Catholics. Where our nations can only fight and destroy human beings, as Christians we can fight against sin and error using the weapons God gives us. His Holy Spirit, working through us in love for our enemies, and in words and deeds filled with truth and charity, will defeat the world and the devil. We are not necessarily called to wage war physically (though we may well be), but we are all called to fight in the great battle which the Church Militant fights through all time; the battle for the salvation of souls, both of our own and others.
Whether it’s in combat with our own culture of death, or the one in Syria and Iraq, we need to engage that culture with Truth and Charity. And in prayer, we must continue to lift up our world and plead for conversion, in our own hearts, in our homes, and for the conversion of Muslims.