Tag Archives: nuclear weapons

Transfigured or vaporized

In the Catholic liturgical calendar August 6 is the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, recalling how Jesus showed himself to three apostles in a radiant light, revealing the glory of God.

August 6, 1945, is a day that should live in infamy. On that day, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, not a military target. More than 90,000 were killed almost immediately. Many continued to suffer the effects of radiation for many.

On August 6, 1978, Blessed Pope Paul VI, died. He had called the bombing a “butchery of untold magnitude.”

In 1981, Pope Saint John Paul II said, when visiting Hiroshima:

“To remember the past is to commit oneself to the future. To remember Hiroshima is to abhor nuclear war. To remember Hiroshima is to commit oneself to peace. To remember what the people of this city suffered is to renew our faith in humankind, in their capacity to do what is good, in their freedom to choose what is right, in their determination to turn disaster into a new beginning. In the face of the man-made calamity that every war is, one must affirm and reaffirm again, that the waging of war is not inevitable or unchangeable. Humanity is not destined to self-destruction.”

Two years later, in their 1983 pastoral letter The Challenge of Peace, the US Catholic bishops noted the importance of changing the climate of the US, so that it might “express profound sorrow over the atomic bombing in 1945.” They then wrote:

“Without that sorrow, there is no possibility of finding a way to repudiate future uses of nuclear weapons or of conventional weapons in such military actions as would not fulfill just-war criteria.”

A few days after the dropping of the bomb, the French novelist and philosopher Albert Camus, who had resisted the Nazis, wrote:

…Before the terrifying prospects now available to humanity, we see even more clearly that peace is the only goal worth struggling for. There is no longer a prayer but a demand to be made by all peoples to their governments – a demand to choose definitively between hell and reason.

In September, Dorothy Day poignantly wrote in  The Catholic Worker:

Everyone says, “I wonder what the Pope thinks of it?” How everyone turns to the Vatican for judgement, even though they do not seem to listen to the voice there! But our Lord Himself has already pronounced judgement on the atomic bomb. When James and John (John the beloved) wished to call down fire from heaven on their enemies, Jesus said:

“You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of Man came not to destroy souls but to save.” He said also, “What you do unto the least of these my brethren, you do unto me.”

Tabor or Hiroshima

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

What happened on Mount Tabor?

In the first place, Jesus revealed in a stunning way that He is God. By doing this He also sought to inspire hope in his followers who would witness His death – and resurrection.

But I think that in another way Jesus was trying to show us who we really are in the depths of our being and who we really can become.

The Orthodox tradition takes seriously the statement of St. Athanasius that God became human that we might become God.

There is the spark of God’s love and divinity at the center of our being. It is obscured by sin but it is still there. On Mount Tabor, Jesus showed us that speak of God which can become a burning flame of love when we listen to Him.

But sometimes what we do or fail to do or the circumstances of life try to put out that spark – or substitute false fires of destruction for that flame of love.

So today, the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, we remember that attempt to unleash the power of death, ignoring the lives of the civilians who lived in Hiroshima.

Pope Paul VI, who died on August 6, 1978, put it bluntly in his World Peace Day Message for 1976:

“If the consciousness of universal brotherhood truly penetrates into the hearts of [humans], will they still need to arm themselves to the point of becoming blind and fanatic killers of their brethren who in themselves are innocent, and of perpetrating, as a contribution to peace, butchery of untold magnitude, as at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945? In fact has not our own time had an example of what can be done by a weak man, Gandhi — armed only with the principle of nonviolence — to vindicate for a nation of hundreds of millions of human beings the freedom and dignity of a new people?”

Will we choose the spark of love of Jesus on Mount Tabor and give of ourselves or will we choose the fire of death of atomic and nuclear weapons, of drones, of missiles aimed at civilians?

The future of our planet depends on what we choose.

But even more, our future depends on our choice.

Will we nurture the spark of God in our hearts and the hearts of others or will we bring death with the fires of our weapons?