In reading about the Second World War, I am always impressed by the willingness of the British people to pull together, support one another, and make the necessary sacrifices that helped to ensure that Hitler could never successfully invade. It seems to me that the war was won by all these regular citizens engaged in daily acts of self-giving.
J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy seems to have come from the same moral temperament. There were several instances in these novels where evil was thwarted not by grand designs and by the strength of arms but by the acts of simple kindness that the Enemy did not expect. And Tolkein had it right: it is difficult for Evil to imagine the power of generosity and love in simple people “doing their bit”. It’s the little people, working under the radar, who make peace happen.
That same understanding is what Jesus would have us do as his disciples – Jesus, who, in today’s Gospel, is lamenting the cruelty of Jerusalem, who “kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it.” Jesus made a splash big enough to get himself killed – but, who among the powerful could – and can – possibly imagine his resurrection? It teaches that death does not have the final say. Only Love can do that.
As we emerge from the two years of isolation, grief, and hardship that was imposed on us by the Pandemic, we’re being given a new challenge. Our heroes during the Pandemic were all the first responders, doctors, nurses, school teachers, grocery clerks, custodians, and other people who went out and kept our infrastructures healthy. Now, longing for a return to “normalcy”, we are instead confronted with a new development that will challenge our well being and the ability to live according to the standards to which we were hoping to return. And we will all need to be heroes.
Do we fall into anxiety and anger, hoarding, pushing others away, and trying for a security that is ephemeral? Or do we respond with compassion, as Jesus would have us do, lamenting the entrenched evil that threatens the cities we love? (O, Moscow, how I long to gather you. . .) And reaching out in compassion to those who are hurting?
As a nation we have to do what we have to do to support our allies, to confront and halt the invasion by Russia of its neighbors. But it’s going to come down to “the little guy” again to take the sorts of actions that will ensure peace. Our willingness to sacrifice when it comes to shortages of gas and food, our spontaneous gestures of support for those who are suffering more than we are, and our ability to choose goodness over profit and even security will be what makes the difference. Jesus taught us this path. It is the Way. See if it isn’t what wins the day.