Jesus asked, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is” (Mt. 16:13)? Peter answers Jesus by saying that Jesus is: “The Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Mt: 16:16). In other words, Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us.
When we dig a little deeper, another question that might overshadow the question of who Jesus is, is where is Jesus, especially as tensions between Russia and Ukraine rise, the instability in Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen remain and other areas of the world continue to experience increasing violence as well.
What does Peter’s response that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God have to do with the above examples of ongoing and escalating violence? This means Jesus is one with us. The infinite reality of God is present within each human being that exists because Jesus became one with us so that we can be one with him. We have been created in God’s image and likeness and this is true from the moment of our conception through each stage of life until natural death. The unfortunate effects of Orignal sin are that our image has been distorted and our likeness to God has been lost. The fact that we continue to dehumanize and delegitimize the dignity of each other only continues to fuel this divide between us and God. We continue to choose self over God and continue to perpetuate the loss of our dignity.
Does Jesus care? Yes, just as Jesus said, “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me” (Acts 9:4)?, he asks the same to all who would take up arms to maim and destroy the dignity of his Body and spill his Blood. Jesus experiences the death of each and every life that is lost to violence, whether in war torn regions of the world as well or in our own escalation of violence in our own country. How does Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, experiences these horrific tragedies? For what you do to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you did it to me (cf. Mt 25:31-46).
Violence will continue as long as we refuse to see the dignity present in each and every life. Each and every one of us is interconnected and what effects one of us effects all of us. Human beings are not: to be disposed of as political pawns, collateral damage, illegal, to be objectified, property to be used, and/or to be abused. As we prepare for this Lent let us pray and fast, that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine de-escalates, that hearts and minds throughout the world may moved to lay down their weapons, walk away from violence, turn our swords into plowshares, our spears into pruning hooks, and no longer to lift our swords up to each other and choose instead reconciliation over war (cf. Isaiah 2:4).
We need to place our trust in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, and turn to him in prayer, offering him our anger, our doubt, our pain, and our yearning for justice, mercy, peace, and a will to seek healing and forgiveness instead of violence. We also can take heart in knowing that pain, injustice, violence, and death do not have the last word. Jesus suffered violence and died a brutal death, and conquered death to give us another way. As we pray and work for change, may we find some comfort in the words of Fr. James Martin, S.J.: “Life is stronger than death. Love stronger than hatred. Hope is stronger than despair. Nothing is impossible with God.”
Painting: Icon of Christ: Swords Into Plowshares by Kelly Latimore
The final quote came from a talk given by Fr. James Martin, S.J. given on April 22, 2014, titled On Pilgrimage with James Martin, SJ, Fordham University.