Keep war in mind as we celebrate Easter
War in Iraq says something about Easter and Easter says something about the war
My dear friends in Christ,
As I write this message, my prayer is that the conflict in Iraq
will have ended by the time we celebrate Easter Sunday. My prayer
is also for all the families who lost loved ones in that
But in any case, we cannot forget the war as we celebrate Easter
this year. The war says something about Easter and Easter says
something about the war. The images that have been on TV for 24
hours a day, seven days a week are too fresh and too vivid.
The war reminds us that the first Easter was in many ways just a
truce. The violence that we saw on Calvary would begin again when
believers began to preach Jesus. Stephen was the first to fall,
stoned to death by good people defending their faith. The Gospel
message has continued to meet opposition even into our own time,
sometimes from the violent and sometimes from the sophisticated and
sometimes from both.
This tells us that the Easter victory is for now mainly a
victory of the spirit and the Spirit. The believer has from the
Spirit of Christ an inner strength, confidence and even joy that
can overcome anything. You meet this kind of victory reading the
story of today's heroes like Abp. Nguyen Van Thuan who spent 13
years in a Communist prison, nine in solitary confinement. You meet
it visiting your sick friends in the hospital as they cope with
sickness and frightening diagnoses.
The final victory over sin, violence and death will come when
Jesus returns in glory. The hope of that final victory, perhaps
millennia from now, still has the power to brighten the Easter
Sunday we celebrate this year.
And what does this Easter tell us about war? It certainly should
remind us that the human heart wants peace more than war. There are
very few, if any people who are happy because we are at war. But
there are things that can be judged worse than war, all of them the
creation of sinful hearts: oppression, cruelty, and savage
injustice. The answer to the sinful heart is the reconciliation and
renewal that come from faith and the Holy Spirit.
So on each Easter we do not simply celebrate or commemorate a
wonderful event that happened 2,000 years ago on a Sunday morning
in Palestine. We rejoice in what has happened to us because of that
first Easter: the Spirit given, new life received. We pray at the
Easter Mass that the celebration this year may further serve to
"raise us up and renew our lives by the Spirit that is within us."
Renewed hearts are the way to peace.
It is our hope that with the cessation of hostilities our troops
will be able to help build a lasting peace in that tormented
country. The Easter celebration reminds us that the way to peace
lies in those things that are characteristic of the Spirit given by
Jesus on the first Easter: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
May this Easter celebration be a time of grace and blessing for
all of us and especially for loved ones who may be in harm's
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Robert J. Banks,
Bishop of Green Bay, Wis.