In the last few days the world has once again been given the horrifying and painful reminder that barbarism still exists today. France, Lebanon, and Nigeria have all been attacked by radical Islamists in recent days and over two hundred people have been murdered. In the last month, the number is well over a thousand. These attacks remind us of the global scourge of terrorism and that evil still dwells in men’s hearts, but they do not serve as any indication that they have won anything. The Devil knows he has lost and so he wastes away, taking human souls with him, on his pointless reign of terror on this side of the veil. It is important as we mourn the deaths of so many, that we remember this is first a spiritual war. We must engage in spiritual warfare in order for this war to be won. We must pray for the dead, hurt, mourning, and for our enemies. We must pray fervently for the conversion of souls. More than anything we must strive to live holy lives and to cling to Our Lord who dwells among us in the Holy Eucharist and Who unites us as one body.
Comfort in Grief
In times of mourning, grief, and suffering it is imperative to focus on Christ fully present to us body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Holy Eucharist. He tends to our wounds, heals our hurts, and gives us strength through His grace. It is here that we meet Him as the Sacrifice poured out for the many. The one who has come to take away the sins of the world. He Who knows our suffering and pain and took it upon Himself.
He became flesh so that he might become bread. He gave himself to enter into the “fruit of the earth and the work of human hands”; thus he puts himself in our hands and into our hearts. God is not the great unknown, whom we can but dimly conceive. We need not fear, as heathen do, that he might be capricious and bloodthirsty or too far away and too great to hear men. He is there, and we always know where we can find him, where he allows himself to be found and is waiting for us. Today this should sink into our hearts: God is near. God knows us. God is waiting for us in Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, God is Near Us: The Eucharist, The Heart of Life, 102-103
He dwells among us and is truly present to us. He is with us now and always. “And behold, I am with you always until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) This is our starting point in response to terrorism. We must fall before the Eucharistic Presence with all of our sorrow, but also with all of our hope. It is in this Most Blessed Sacrament that we will be given the grace and peace to continue on this arduous journey.
The early Church understood the mystery of the Eucharist as underlying the expression of “peace”. “Peace” very quickly became one of the names for the Eucharistic sacrament, for it is there that God does in fact come to meet us, that sets us free, that, although we are debtors, guilty in his sight, he takes us in his arms, gives himself to us…The Eucharist is peace from the Lord.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, God is Near Us, 117
It can be hard to imagine peace in times of such bloodshed, but Our Lord is true peace. We will only find peace in Him, and that is for all people. What were the first words spoken by Our Savior when He returned in triumphant glory? We had just killed God. He had died a horrible and torturous death on a Cross. What was His response to our fear, anger, hatred, confusion, and sin?
Peace be with you.
After all that had happened. After all of the fear, terror, grief, and violence Our Lord came back to us with the words, “Peace be with you”. He knew that in our Fallen world we needed the peace that can only come from Him. As He hung on the Cross dying He saw the bombings in Nigeria, France, Lebanon, and countless other countries. He saw the anger in men’s hearts and so He came back to offer us peace. He wants to dwell with and in us so that we might have peace, and in times like these we might have comfort and strength; that we will have the courage to keep fighting the good fight. To keep praying, fasting, and giving alms because that is how we truly change the world.
Here they [the disciples] met with the new sphere of peace that faith had opened up—the reconciliation of slaves and free men, of Greeks and barbarians, of Jews and gentiles. Here, they who were deeply divided one from another in the framework of the society at that time (and even today-my addition) were one, were indeed one single person—the new man, Jesus Christ who on the basis of the Father’s love bound them all together. That is why the Eucharist itself was often simply referred to as peace: it was the place of the presence of Jesus Christ and was thereby the sphere of a new peace, the sphere of a table fellowship that transcended all boundaries and limits, in which everyone as at home everywhere.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 118
It is Christ who binds us together in the Mystical Body. It is He who helps us mourn and grieve so acutely when lives are stolen by the evil choices of others. It is why we ache when we see children murdered, Christians crucified, and women sold into sex slavery throughout the world. It is why we see the suffering of Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, France, Russia, Turkey, and countless others which is united in our hearts and minds as members of the Church. We are now One Body. Our peace, hope, and eschatological end are all united in us. Together we have our eyes fixed on Christ and we turn to Him as we ache and carry the deep heart-break of Fallen man.
But what unites us today is not the private interest of this group or that, but the interest that God takes in us, to which we can calmly confide all our own interests and wishes. We are standing for the Lord. And the more we stand with one another, and our capacity to understand one another grows again, the capacity to recognize each other as people, as brothers and sisters, and thus, in being together, to build the basis and to open up the possibilities of humanity and of life.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 110
In these dark days we must come before the Eucharistic Sacrifice that we may come together and be united through Christ. We must continue the good fight. We must mourn, grieve, and pray together as we await the Parousia, which we will contemplate once again during Advent. Days like these have been the scourge of man since the Fall, but it is overcome in Christ and we must remember that there is much good in the world. We cannot lose sight of all that is good in the face of all that is evil. One of the greatest expressions of this need to persevere and focus on the good is found in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings:
Sam: It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.
May God bring peace, healing, comfort, and strength to those who mourn. May he have mercy on the dead and may He convert all souls to Himself. May Our Heavenly Mother wrap the world in her mantle and intercede for us always. May He bring the world to peace. Amen.
image: People lay flowers at the French Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine in memory of the victims of the November 13 terror attacks in Paris. Furyk Nazar / Shutterstock.com