Terror and peace

Yesterday it felt as though a deep, anguished sadness had descended on us all. Yet again, this time in Nice, families doing something perfectly safe and normal became the targets of violent, murderous hate - but this time with a further, horrifying twist. We had all grown wearyingly accustomed to carnage via bombs, guns and other weapons, and to being told to report suspicious packages or activity, but Thursday's weapon was a lorry - something familiar, which we see on our roads every day. Something designed to transport goods, here used to destroy lives. Murder can be as chillingly simple as that. And with that comes fear.

Yesterday, too, held the funeral of Jo Cox, the MP brutally murdered by a man exploding with as much hate-filled rage as any terrorist. In the morning her husband, referring to the killings in Nice, tweeted that Jo would ask us not to fight hate with hate, but draw together to drain the swamp that extremism breeds in. Drawing together is where our strength lies; it's what has saved and sustained people in the past, ensuring their survival, morale and comfort. But sadly, there are many - with loud voices - whose unnamed fear makes them want to pull away, mistrusting; to repel potential evil with barriers which will also, inevitably, keep out what is good.

And all this is without mentioning the coup in Turkey, recent terrorist attacks around the world and the continuing strangeness and uncertainty of our own political situation, and the fear-driven xenophobia stalking our streets...

After the attacks in Brussels only four months ago I read a reflection by an American Jesuit, Brendan Busse - Fear and Passion: Celebrating Holy Week in a Time of Terror - and posted extracts on our website (with permission). This morning I revisited it, re-reading the message it contains. To me it speaks, powerfully, to where and how we are today, so some extracts are below. May they speak to each one of us, breaking into our confusion and grief, and stir us to pray and act so that God's passionate love may indeed turn our terror into tenderness, and his peace truly be with us...

It’s good to remember, even before we begin, what he had to say when it was all over. With the wounds still gaping in his hands, feet, and side – a dead man walking into a room full of confusion, shame, and grief – he still had the nerve to say it: Stop worrying. Stop hiding. Stop locking your doors. Peace be with you...

The most unbelievable part of this story isn’t that he, being God, had no need of remaining dead; it’s that he, being God, thought we might actually take him up on the offer of living free from fear. Peace be with us? In this mess? Even if… Even when… Are you serious?
After it was all over he didn’t ask us not to fear, but he insisted on peace. Be not afraid? Ok, maybe not. But live not in terror, act not in hatred, remain not in fear. If you can, let it pass. On the other side of passion is peace.

Perhaps there’s no way around the fear – the reasons for it will keep coming – but there’s no reason to participate in the terror. No reason to hold it within you. The scriptures say he breathed on them – Peace be with you – and that they received his Spirit.

It’s good to remember, even before we begin, how his fear became his freedom, how his passion became his peace. Let it be so with each of us. Let our failures free us from fear and let this passionate love turn our terror into tenderness. And let us remember what he had to say when it was all over – Peace be with you – even if, even when.