National Catholic Reporter
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Inside NCR
Issue Date:  April 18, 2003

From the Editor’s Desk

Under normal circumstances, understanding the power of Easter is a difficult matter.

I know the words, the concepts, and in personal moments I have known the profound and deep touch of God’s love. I also know, however, that the Easter Alleluia did not remain a personal moment for long. The community, we are led to believe, fairly quickly buzzed with the rumor, the crazy rumor, and then with the reality.

The community soon got into some nasty fixes over the conviction that he had risen. And I have to wonder, what did Easter mean to them then?

Under normal circumstances it’s difficult and this year, at war anew, the difficulty is multiplied.

The tug is between a dictator toppled and the sin of a new war. We haven’t begun, as of this writing, to count the dead. We haven’t begun to understand the cost to families ripped apart. We don’t know the eventual cost in old alliances lost or new enemies gained.

We keep the cameras on the jubilant crowd toppling the statue of the dictator. We avoid the hospitals overrun and the roadside graves, the columns of armored vehicles ripped apart from the skies, now death containers.

Can one move toward Easter celebrating a military victory? Will that joy fit in our sanctuary? Find expression in our liturgy? Can it?

In the confusion -- my tiny understanding of what an infinite God accommodates quickly reaches its limits -- I’ll seek solace in prayer. It’s really the best we’ve got at wit’s end and some, I know by now, are better prayers than others. One especially rich prayer crossed my desk in recent days. It is from Gabe Huck, an expert liturgist, author, devoted peacemaker and former director of Liturgy Training Publications in Chicago.

Huck made several trips in the recent past to Iraq, so his prayer, which I am happy to share below, issues from a considerable experience of the place that has so captured our attention in recent weeks.

God of all who are frightened,
in these days of Easter,
in these fifty days to live as if you
we cling not to some happy ending
but to knowing the difference
between life and death.
Stay with us
and we will seek your face in those
who dwell
where Sarah and Abraham began
their journey,
where Daniel found bittersweet
where crabby Jonah begrudged
your love for Nineveh.
Do not, dear God, let us put this
war aside
to gird ourselves for the next.
Veronica-like we would wipe away
the blood our work and dollars
and Pilate-like would wash and
wash again our hands.
But all the while, like the women
of Jerusalem,
make us learn paschal lamentation
lest our Alleluia be the easy
Alleluia of the compliant,
for we barely rocked the ship of state on
its way to war.
Let our Alleluia groan with all we
stand to gain
from the losses of those you love.

God the all-merciful,
whisper to us yet in prophet and in
that this is the Passover,
that you and all the world are
and like lovers can together bear
the work of humble reparation.
We pray in Jesus’ name,
who died and who lives for ever
and ever.

-- Tom Roberts

My e-mail address is

National Catholic Reporter, April 18, 2003

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