A woman wipes the rain from the headstone of a loved one in order to write a message on the cross in Bucha, Ukraine, April 10, 2022. CNS photo/Alex Kent

Easter hope rises even in Ukraine

By  Ken Rolheiser, Catholic Register Special
  • April 28, 2022

Ivan and Olga (not their real names) drive quickly through the street with their infant daughter Lesia. Their fears are realized as they encounter enemy soldiers with guns levelled. Ivan steps out in front of the car, his arms raised. He glances back at the family he loves. The soldiers open fire. Olga too is executed. We don’t know what happens to Lesia.

Will the war end? Can Mary, the untier of knots, change the heart of Vladimir Putin? Is there hope for the suffering people? Yes, yes and yes.

I have been struggling with the apparent delay in breaking Russia’s menacing hold on Ukraine. Christ is being crucified in the bodies of the victims in Ukraine.

It seems so hopeless and endlessly futile. But that too will end. Putin’s heart will change, or it won’t, but it will end. Stalin and Kruschev are gone. Hitler is no more.

Meanwhile we witness the atrocities that we don’t want to bring to mind. The desperate refugee story above is a true story as recorded by news footage.

Following the Ukraine war story is like walking through a graveyard. There is a heaviness about it. There is death all around with seemingly no sign of life in the levelled buildings and broken earth. We need to hear the angel say, “He is not here, He has been raised” (Luke 24:6).

We need to remember how Jesus cried out to the Father. God answered in silence, but He did not abandon Jesus. God’s final response is Easter, the Resurrection. God never abandons us. He is closer to us when we suffer.

We are not cold hearted about the plight of Ukraine’s people. Their suffering moves us to care for their wounds and their needs. Prayer, financial help, political action? We do what we can. We are not indifferent, and God is not indifferent. God is near.

God redeems us through our suffering. Our darkest moments, our tears and our heart breaks are dear to the heart of Jesus. His healing presence is near.

God may appear silent to our cries for help, but His silence can be trusted. He is near and suffers with us.

Easter hope appears in the Ukraine. For example, the Knights of Columbus councils in Poland and Ukraine in both the Latin and Greek Catholic Churches provide temporary shelter, food, medical supplies, clothing and communications.

One hundred per cent of my donation through the Knights of Columbus made just now went directly to support humanitarian aid in Ukraine.

Hope is alive in the Resurrection. The Kingdom will come. The Masses being said, and the rosaries being prayed every hour of every day, will bring results.

The Resurrection trumps death, even the meaningless violent deaths of war. Our death, no matter when or where, is tied to the Resurrection of Jesus. His life is already in us as eucharistic people.

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in Him” (John 6:54-56).

With Christ in us we move forward in service to others. Like Simon of Cyrene who got caught in the events of the crucifixion, our assistance to others, though reluctant at times, may lead us to realize that we helped carry the cross of Christ.

(Ken Rolheiser is an author and columnist for newspapers in Western Canada and the U.S. Follow his Pause for Reflection website at www.kenrolheiser.com.)

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