A Ukrainian service member walks past destroyed homes after they were hit during a Russian military strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 21, 2022. CNS photo/Gleb Garanich, Reuters

Luke Stocking: Learning to love Christ, not the bomb

  • March 26, 2022

On March 1, I was mesmerized by an explosion. Verified footage of a Russian missile striking Freedom Square in Kharkiv, Ukraine, transformed a normal city scene into a giant fireball. The speed of its violence arrested me. “Where was the missile?” I thought. It only became visible to me as I looked for it in the replay. The long and deadly cylinder streaks downwards out of the sky and into the image a millisecond before transforming itself into death and destruction.

There is perhaps no greater spectacle of war than the explosion — everything from Molotov cocktails to mushroom clouds. An explosion, by technical definition, is a violent expansion in which energy is transmitted outward as a shockwave. In war, the outward energy of explosions goes far beyond their blast radius. Shockwaves travel around the world.

Bombs explode in Syria and our parishes in Toronto welcome Syrian refugees by the hundreds.

Bombs explode in Yemen and my teenager decides to give hard-earned cash from working our family farmer’s market to support relief efforts there.

Bombs explode in Afghanistan for 20 years and Western intervention collapses in mere months.

Bombs explode in Ethiopia and we who work for peace lament that the media will not pay attention.

Bombs explode in Ukraine and my mother stands before me in the hallway of our home with tears running down her cheeks. We are talking about the experience of gathering online with 200 members of our organization from across Canada to pray the rosary together and lift our hearts and spirits to God for peace.

We live in a world of bombs. We live in a world of The Bomb. Listen to the lament of the mothers. It is the lament of God.

I believe that the lament of God over the violence of His children was made flesh in Jesus Christ. Growing up, I was taught that the expected Messiah was to be a military leader who would free the people from the occupying empire. I was taught that Jesus turned that expectation on its head. Jesus joined us as teacher and a healer at the margins of our society. It is from there that He saved the world.

How did He save us? He did not do it by hurling bombs and meeting explosions with more explosions. He did it by taking all the sin of the world and absorbing it into His body. All the malicious violence that humanity has to offer entered into His body through His torture and crucifixion. By the greatest miracle of all, He transformed death into resurrection. The Prince of Peace offers us a way out of our death spiral. James Loney, a friend and a peacemaker, was the first I ever heard describe Jesus as a “shock-absorber.”

When the world is exploding with war, what we need is Christ-like shock-absorbers. I understand that to many, this makes no sense. To many, Christ the saviour is Zelensky or Putin, depending on whose side you are on. To many, Christ the saviour is no fly zones and starstreak anti-aircraft missiles or hypersonic kinzhal missiles and MiG fighter jets, depending on whose side you are on. But in a world of war, this is not where we find Christ the saviour. Putting our faith in such saviours condemns us to an endless future of bombs and explosions, pain and suffering.

Fr. James Martin posted a photo on Facebook from the New York Times that keeps showing up in my feed as countless people in my network share it again and again. A woman named Olga sits up in a hospital bed in Kyiv. Her naked torso is mostly covered by a golden foil shock blanket. The visible parts of her are lightly spattered in blood, including her face and head. Her husband Dmytro stands by her side. She is nursing her infant daughter. She had used her body to shield her child as a bomb exploded, saving the child’s life.

Olga’s head is bandaged white and speckled with blood. It appears to me as a heavenly crown. She stares into the camera as if questioning the observer, “Why? Why? Why?” She has taken the violence of the world into her body and saved her child. I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, calling us as Christ calls from the cross. Holy God, in a world of explosions, let us be shock-absorbers.

(Stocking is Deputy Director of Public Awareness & Engagement, Ontario and Atlantic Regions, for Development and Peace.)

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