It is said “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I am thinking that holiness too is in the eye of the beholder. I seem to remember that it is not uncommon for disasters of various kinds to happen during a holy season like this week. A headline in the newspaper La Croix International, a Catholic newspaper reads, “Easter attacks ensure maximum impact both in terms of casualties and publicity” and mentions terrorist attacks in different countries in Asia and Africa in recent years, among them the 2019 Easter attack on three Christian churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka resulting in multiple deaths and wounded of all ages. Natural disasters happen too. In fact floods in Durban in the last few days are a reminder of floods at the same time in 2019, resulting in a number of deaths and destruction.
On a much larger scale Pope Francis, having preached peace, as he did in depth in Fratelli Tutti, has called for a truce in the horrific suffering wrought upon millions of families on both sides of the brutal Ukraine war. Will it possibly reach a climax over this holy season? Can Christian people on both sides of the conflict bring themselves to respond to a call for a truce, out of faith in God, and love of neighbour? 2000 years ago Jesus was faced with a question when Pilate, another brutal leader, murdered Galileans in the midst of worship and mingled their blood with the sacrifices. Were they evil sinners? Jesus’ response, without judging the degree of evil, was a call to repent.
Are the man-made disasters, the wars over land, for greed and power as well as the natural disasters resulting from climate change and our neglect and abuse of the environment also a call and a time to repent? In spite of daily being faced with the horrific destruction and suffering of millions of people through war, it should also be said, as in the recent article in the Daily Maverick, “Ukraine is a sideshow” to the greater risk to our global future on this planet. Pope Francis, surely a prophet for our time, in Laudato Si calls for ecological conversion too.
But many others over time have seen the evils of war and oppression and identified with creation as a source of conversion and peace. Joseph Plunkett a young Irish poet, was imprisoned and executed by the English army for his part in the 1916 Easter Uprising. His Easter poem an ecological hymn of repentance and praise, published by Franciscan Media with, as introduction, the tribute, “Because of his great love for the Incarnate Word—and the Word’s close connection to all created things—Plunkett saw Christ’s destiny and great love as forever entwined with this earth and this universe.”
“I See His Blood upon the Rose”
I see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.
I see his face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but his voice—and carven by his power
Rocks are his written words. All pathways by his feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.”
Beauty as holiness is in the eyes of the beholder. TR FAMILY WEEKLY, HOLY WEEK 2022