By Deacon Gregory M. Kirk
St. Joseph Catholic Church, Galion
Media pictures coming out of Kiev in Ukraine recently have taken my awareness back to a hill in Israel, where Jesus proclaimed an eloquent sermon on a warm afternoon. Christians, and the world, have come to know that sermon as “The Sermon on the Mount.” A central tenant of that sermon is a familiar refrain that has touched and guided people of peace for generations: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9
For over two months, a group of men one can easily characterize as “children of God” have literally placed their lives on the line, standing between thousands of angry citizen protesters and heavily armed government riot police, in the midst of stacks of burning rubber tires, to proclaim the peace of Jesus Christ.
The civil crisis in Kiev has arisen largely from the nation’s displeasure over new taxes that are considered to be unreasonable increases, and a heavy burden by the people there, and by the leader of that nation’s decision to shelve an agreement with the European Union, one that the people believe would lead to a better standard of living.
Violence has erupted from the protests, and citizens have been beaten, some have lost their lives.
Three large branches of the Orthodox Church in the region are quietly providing a startling example of working together, in the face of tension and violence, to stand between rock throwers, and armed soldiers, to pray for peace.
Armed with crucifixes, icons (holy painted images of Jesus and His saints), the Gospel Book, and incensors, the priests gather every cold morning to sing prayers of peace and to provide a solemn, soothing relief to the tensions. On several occasions, these priests’ presence has resulted in an end to hostilities between the two camps.
Additionally, the priests have offered comfort to beaten protestors, and offered them safety and sanctuary in the churches, particularly in St. Michael’s Cathedral in Kiev.
I wish I understood the political dynamics of what is occurring in Kiev more completely. But I do clearly see courage, and a profound love for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, on the part of these brave priests who obviously have heard “The Sermon on the Mount” and have been formed and moved by it.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that these images of courage and non-violence have emerged just after our nation has celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I can’t look at these pictures of peace without hearing the “Sermon on the Mount” in my heart in fresh and new ways.
Please pray for peace in Kiev. Please pray for the dignity of humanity, and the sanctity of human life to be recognized and protected everywhere. Please consider standing yourself, in the midst of confrontation, when you encounter it, and speak words of love and peace. Jesus will stand with you – He lives, and His power can transform and change human hearts, and situations.
And you will be recognized for who you really are: “Children of God.”