At the foot of the Cross

Shall he, then, keep on brandishing his sword
to slay peoples without mercy?
Habakkuk 1, 17

 Habakkuk is complaining about human beings whom God has made, who make gods for themselves out of the works of their hands, even out of the fishermen’s net. Worse, they “slay peoples without mercy.”

Today that complaint seems to ring true.

On August 9, 1945, the US dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Nagasaki was a center of Catholicism in Japan, with its shrine of the Japanese martyrs. The bomb killed tens of thousands of innocent people, including those who had gathered in the Nagasaki cathedral to pray.

Two years before, on August 9, 1943, Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian peasant was beheaded for refusing to serve in the Nazi army. He was one of only a few Catholics who saw the reality of Hitler and decided that he could have no part of it.

In one of his letters to his wife from prison he recalled a dream he had in 1938 of a training speeding down a hill, with people running to get on board. He identified the train as Nazism and saw it as a train going to hell.

A year before Franz’s martyrdom, Sister Teresa Benedicta a Cruce, born Edith Stein, died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz onAugust 9, 1942. A philosopher, a convert from Judaism, a Carmelite nun, she did not see herself as separated from the pain of her day, especially the suffering of the Jewish people. In fact, she has written to Pope Pius XI seeking an audience to talk with him about the persecution of Jews. Her letter was unanswered.

But St. Teresa Benedicta saw her role as being with Christ crucified.

Do you want to be totally united to the Crucified? If you are serious about this, you will be present, by the power of His Cross, at every front, at every place of sorrow, bringing to those who suffer healing and salvation.

On August 9, 1991, two Conventual Franciscan priests, Miguel Tomaszek and Zbigniew Strzalkowski, missionaries in Perú, were killed by the Sendero Luminoso. They had stood with the poor.

How can I be present at the Cross, at the suffering of peoples? If I truly want to follow the Crucified God, how can I be silent in the face of suffering, death, bombing, persecution?

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