They made a Desert and called it Peace: Can we end the Reign of Pain?
“My son, my son,” said Aslan. “I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another…”
Aslan, the great lion who is portrayed as a God-like character has been so hurt and so victimised by this young boy in C.S Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, yet still weeps for (and with) him and grants him his heart’s desire. A beautiful image of the God who made us. Truly C.S Lewis was a man who understood pain on a deeply personal level. Perhaps more than anything he understood how to present the raw realities of pain as seen through the eyes of a child.
If we take a look at the world around us at present we see what I can only describe as the reign of pain. The recent events in Manchester which have seen some twenty two souls lost (Lord, be good to them) while attending an Ariana Grande concert have rocked each of us to our very core. Yet when I observe the responses to these horrors by many people online the majority of those posting are not asking “What can we do to inflict further pain on the world?” but rather, “How can I alleviate your pain?” Because each of us, is at present, in pain. Each of us is in some way, suffering; so the question is what shall we do with this suffering?
Suffering and pain is nothing new to the world. As long as there has been life on this planet, and as long as man has been able to think for himself, then suffering and pain have followed. | could not begin to list the many ways we have inflicted pain on each other. To my mind, suffering is painful and suffering is perplexing. However, suffering can and does hold a deeper meaning. Extremism is all around us and this is a real cause for concern. There are some who call certain religious figures, politicians or public figures that advocate non violent responses “radical”, but I can’t help but think we are in need of something or someone radical right now. Jesus was a revolutionary. William Wilberforce was called radical. Martin Luther King was considered dangerous. Dorothy Day was thought of as a troublemaker and Bobby Kennedy was referred to as ruthless.
Where is our bravery to take a chance and have a bit of faith in those around us? We can be more than just a reactionary people who meet violence with more violence, pain with further pain, and death with more and more death. As Tacitus said of Rome, “They made a desert, and called it Peace”. Only when we have reduced our world to total rubble and eliminate all life from it can there be a total peace. Or will we be revolutionary radicals; dangerous troublemakers who are ruthless advocates for a peaceful world?
If there are no final answers to the direction we are moving in then what are we to do with our pain? Personally, I carry out small acts of kindness. I try and make someone’s day a bit brighter and a bit kinder. I try my best to live up to the challenge set out by Bobby in 1968 when he echoed the words of the ancient Greeks: To tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Why? Because every experience and every encounter with those I meet provides an opportunity for my life to go in a different direction. In doing so I can change the course of history.
We can allow ourselves to hold onto the transgressions of ourselves and others and become incredibly bitter through this. Or we can allow our hearts to break free from the reign of pain and contempt and soar free to contemplate the face of Christ. We can be merciful as the Father is merciful. It’s a beautiful challenge because if we do engage in this act then we can join in the redeeming work of God’s Kingdom.
“Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power.” “Truly I say to you, this day you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23: 42-43)
This man, known to some as the Good Thief is known to the Catholic Church as Saint Dismas, the first Saint.
There is peace on earth. It mightn’t be of a universal kind imagined by people such as myself but as long as there are good, true and beautiful people who are willing to stand up for the cause that is worth standing up for then I think we’ll be doing alright. As long as children are given the chance to be children and not have their innocence stolen away then I think they will turn out alright. As long as we let the message go forward that every person who exists is loved, is willed and is needed then the world should be just fine. But we absolutely must do our bit. It’ll do no good waiting for someone else to take up the reins. For now, embrace your pain and your suffering. Through it you will find something new, like a Kitsugi vase.
The following note was found in Ravensbruch Women’s Concentration Camp and illustrates just what we are capable of when we accept God’s invitation to intimacy and mercy:
“O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of evil will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted upon us; remember the fruits we have bought, thanks to this suffering: our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this; and when they come to judgement, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness.”
May those whose lives were taken in Manchester rest in the peace of Christ.