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The Fifth Sunday of Easter

“This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.” Jn. 13:34-35


According to CNN’s most recent reports at the time of this writing, indiscriminate killings of civilians attempting to flee the violence are massive. Untold numbers of victims are being found with their hands tied behind their backs. Attacks are taking place on maternity hospitals; theaters are turned into shelters – and then are being bombed.

The list of atrocities and apparent war crimes committed by Russian troops in Ukraine gets longer and more horrifying by the day.

As Ukrainians reclaim the areas previously occupied by the same invading Russian soldiers, evidence of the horrors of recent weeks is continuously emerging from the rubble of shattered villages and towns. New victims are discovered daily. And those lucky enough to have survived the ordeal tell harrowing tales of kidnappings, rapes and torture.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general has reported that her office is investigating 5,800 cases of alleged Russian war crimes – 5,800!! – with “more and more” investigations opening every day.

Yet, despite all these horrors, today’s Gospel urges each of us to “have love for one another.”

The question is:
How do we do that during this appalling situation, especially when the people who need our care live thousands of miles away, and when, according to the latest UN data, the crisis in Ukraine has affected over some 2 million people – half of whom are children and minors?

How do we do that, when, as with any crisis, women, children, and the poor will be those most affected?

And yet, despite all the terror and all the horror, the Ukrainian spirit appears to be indomitable. President Zelensky has become an “icon of rebellion,” as the “comedian-turned-president-turned-national-icon” refuses to leave his national capital, famously rejecting an evacuation offer from the US with the words:
“I don’t need a ride. I need ammunition.”

His spirit has seemingly spread to his people!

Again, how do we “have love for one another”, when presented with a massively dangerous and destructive situation like this?

We do it by struggling in every way we possibly can to support every means of seeking peace.

We do it by supporting the work of an agency like the United Nations Children’s Fund, for one example, which is responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide.

We do it be supporting London-based Save the Children which helps to deliver lifesaving aid to vulnerable children in Ukraine and around the world.  

We do it by donating to many other helping programs like People In Need, Ukrainian Red Cross, the International Medical Corps, and many other relief programs available through the internet.

We do it by challenging elected officials to do everything in their power to support the people of Ukraine and their government in this time of seemingly endless need.
It would be so easy now for the people of Ukraine to become immersed in fear and depression and become absorbed in the desire for retaliation and revenge.

Who could blame them?

But let’s stop for a moment and ask ourselves a question or two:

What would Jesus say if he appeared among them?

What would he say about this scene of utter desolation and terror?

And then ask ourselves: what would Jesus also say during our own continued racial violence right here in America, and our own nonstop violation of all kinds of human rights right here in America?

What would Jesus say, for example, about the reality of so many of our own people dying of hunger in the richest country in the world where 37 million people right now live in poverty and over 60 million people turn to food banks to put food on the table?

What would Jesus say about the reality of some 12 million children in the United States of America being listed as “food insecure,” while rural communities are being especially hard hit by hunger?

What would Jesus say about the fact that women in America are 35 percent more likely than men to be poor, and account for 60 percent of the nation’s lowest paid workers.  

What would Jesus say about the fact that women and children in America make up more than 70 percent of the nation’s poor?

If Jesus were to appear to all of us right now – to the people suffering horribly in Ukraine, and to the people right here in America who are undergoing their own continual fears and heartaches – as well as to those of us who are blessed to be free of those terrors and traumas – if Jesus were to appear to us all right now, I believe Jesus would say the very same thing he said to his earliest followers so long ago:

“This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
So, do we?

Ted Wolgamot, Psy.D.

Art by Jim Matarelli
Sister Rachel’s Quote of the Week

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