Sunday, 29 June 2014

Blessed are the Peacemakers: Where were we on Armed Forces Day?

In preparing the ground for the Beatitudes of the Peacemakers, it is fitting to reflect on Armed Forces Day. Where were we yesterday - at a service, at a cenotaph and march past, offering a Mass, at home giving those who lost their lives, and still are today, a few minutes of reflection and prayer, coupled with praying that God will continue to grant us the gift of peace? Or were we deliberately ignoring it all, treating the day as a glorification of war or, even worse, too complacent to give it a passing thought.

It seems possible, because of their dedication, loyalty and diligence, Christians, in particular Catholics, suffer more casualties in proportion to others. Often we read of this being the case. Why then don't our churches give more than a passing nod, if anything, to Armed Forces Day, Battle of Britain Sunday and Remembrance Sunday? All too often these days are not reflected in the bidding prayers or in a Mass being said for the souls, those suffering, and for peace. Do we believe that peace is just there for the taking, costs nothing and is not a gift requested and granted by God?

Since World War I there has only been one year, 1968, during which there were no British armed forces casualties and since VE day there has been only SIX minutes of peace in the whole world! Why all those deaths and suffering in WW1, WW2, Korea and since then to this very day? We have lost the peace when we cease to honour those who gave up all for it and to pray for peace.

We have had relative peace in our land as our armed forces have manned the bridgeheads overseas, keeping most of the nasty aspects of modern conflict from these shores. However, we are not totally protected from the effects of such wars, as the impact is carried in the bodies of our armed forces and in their minds. Many choose to ignore their plight with quite a few imprisoned by an ungrateful or ignorant nation. How long will our peace last? Will our complacency continue to be such that we drift into a situation in which war returns by default to once more bloody our land? God is a God of peace and without acknowledging this and the debt we owe Him, His gifts of peace may just dry up.

Europe and the Middle East are a tinderbox to day which could be ignited by a mere spark. Those who lived and defended us through the Cold War remember well the daily alerts, any one of which could have signalled devastation. This threat has never gone away: we just choose to ignore it.

For those who lived through the devastation of the London Blitz, Coventry, Liverpool, Plymouth to mention just a few, saw and felt the cruel nature of war.

On VE day the joy at the dawn of peace knew no bounds, and at that time most were determined to remember the costs, and to continue to defend such hard-won freedom and peace no matter the future costs.

Yet since then there has been endless war or conflict in the world whilst a true, not relative, lasting peace remains beyond our grasp.


Where will we now be on Battle of Britain Sunday, when a few gave up their young lives for our peace and even fewer guard our skies today, and Remembrance Sunday which remembers the Fallen over the years: will we remember them?

Will our churches be filled with us praying for the souls of the Fallen and to the God of peace for continued peace in our time or will our churches be deafeningly silent, neglecting these important dates in our diary, leaving us to wait for this possible end?


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