My God, my God, enough. After two years of a pandemic that killed 6 million people in the world, now Russia invades Ukraine. (Actually six million is way too low according to some experts; the deaths may be three times as many. ) Then Russia grew impatient at the gall to refuse to roll over and play dead so Russia is punishing their neighbors with a campaign of total destruction of the country and its people. Nothing is off the table. No school or hospital is safe. No civilians are being spared. No rules apply, apparently.
We are left to wonder how to stop this barbaric rampage. Most of us are prepared to send money or give up vodka or pay more at the gas pump, but we wonder whether any of these charities or sanctions will make a difference. How do you mount an effort of sizeable proportion, even in the wealthiest nation in the world, to stop this kind of inhumanity?
In the confusion of this moment you begin to understand what the psalmist meant when (s)he cried – “My God, My God what’s going on here and when will you show your face? We could do with a sign of grace right about now.”
Nick Shifrin is reporting from Ukraine for the PBS Evening News. Last week he interviewed a Greek Orthodox priest who has remarkable presence. Fr. Andriy Zelinskiyy is a chaplain to the Ukrainian Army. He says his job is to bring humanity to this war. Each day he “helps soldiers see beauty, by standing with them to contemplate the sunrise or sunset.” He believes we all have the ability to heal one another no matter how much we endure or how scarred we become. He shines a light on the tough spiritual resilience of the Ukrainian people.
This interview took place at the Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Church where there’s a mobile with doves flying high above the worship; each dove represents a soldier killed in war with Russia, since 2014. Sitting beneath those doves Fr. Zelinskyy told about losing men who were friends and how each death takes a part of him. "When you lose many friends" he explains, "it creates emptiness."
But Fr. Zelinskyy also believes firmly we all have the capacity to choose the good and to cherish our humanity every day. We have the ability to live our lives even in a war. So he has married soldiers on the battlefield, and baptized them. He has presided over funerals too, but with each sacrament and every loss he pledges never to lose his own humanity, his decency, his ability to be kind and thoughtful. Fr. Zelinskyy believes that hope is not in vain. Freedom and dignity are not mere words. Scars do heal, over time. He reminds us that as long as we live we choose how to conduct ourselves. We can heal one another if we steadfastly refuse to lose our humanity, wherever we are and whatever we face.
As he spoke this priest raised his own hands to demonstrate that we each have power. That image stays with me, the image of a priest in a fragile capital of a battle-torn land holding up his hands under a flock of doves. Somehow, it seemed God was speaking through Fr. Zelinskyy in that moment as he reminds us that we all have more power than we think. And the future always rests in our hands.