National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
At war -- Reflection
Issue Date:  April 4, 2003



In the darkness we knelt, afraid to confess.
And out of the darkness came a tender voice:

Fear not, be not afraid to unburden your hearts,
for am I not your compassionate Beloved?

* * *

O God, be merciful to us Your children,
for we confess that we’re guilty of war.
Each citizen participates in our nation’s sins.
As the left hand shares the sins of the right,
so we each share in the immoral act
of our country crossing the world to wage war
when no enemy threatens our shores.

Taxes provide the government with our money
to buy laser-precise rockets with wizard-like minds,
as well as stealth bombers and cluster bombs
made to rain down destruction and death.
The representatives we’ve voted into office
have mindlessly rubber-stamped this war
conceived by our President and the Pentagon
that will set in motion a domino effect of death.

Can we feel absolution when we’re told
it will be a quick and easy little war,
that stocks will go up, gas prices down?
A fast and dashing fight, a new blitzkrieg,
‘a lightning war’ like the Germans quickly
sweeping over Poland’s ill-equipped army.
Yet fast or long, all wars leave behind
a wasteland of suffering and death.
As Germans bore guilt for their war sins,
and the Japanese assumed shame for theirs,
how can we Americans now escape
our responsibility for this unjust war?

Some of us don’t want our name on any war
and have told all who would listen
of our opposition to an immoral war.
Yet the millions of antiwar protesters
at home and across the entire world
have become muted, paralyzed and impotent
to stop the grinding wheels of war
which we as Americans have helped to turn.
We are, paradoxically, powerless and responsible.

Yet our powerlessness allows us to feel compassion
for the peace-loving and patriotic Israeli Jew,
whose own military kills innocent Arabs
and bulldozes his Palestinian neighbor’s house
under the pretext of hunting possible terrorists.
Our impotency opens us to share the pain
of the peace-loving Gaza Strip Palestinian
whose human-bomb neighbor blows up
an Israeli bus full of women and children
in a misguided martyrdom of a “holy war.”

O God, we long for some sacrificial goat
upon whom the high priest of long ago
would ritually invest the sins of the nation,
then drive it out into the desert to die.
Through the grace of the High Priest, Your Son,
grant us such holy atonement for this war
being waged in our name, with our money,
but without Your blessing.

For this our national sin, and for all our
personal sins of failing to live peacefully,
O merciful God, grant to us absolution.

* * *

Out of the enclosing darkness emerges a voice:

“Your sin is forgiven. Go in peace.
But be prepared to reap the coming harvest
you’ve sown on the bitter winds of war.”

Thank you for your gracious forgiveness,
but You didn’t tell us about our penance.

“At every opportunity you are to wage peace
and do the smallest of things with great love.”

We do not find that a very harsh penance.

“It’s not intended as punitive but purgative,
for every small act of kindness done in love
shrinks your share in the coming great harvest
of resentment, terrorism and the threat
of ever-escalating war.”

Fr. Edward Hays, a priest of the archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., is the founder of Shantivanam House of Prayer in Easton, Kan., and an accomplished author and artist. “The Canticle of Confession” © 2003 Forest of Peace Publishing, Inc.; Reprinted with permission.

AUTHOR INFO HEREshould always be at least 10pt

National Catholic Reporter, April 4, 2003

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