Remembrance Sunday: A Reflection on Faith, Sacrifice and War
There hasn’t been one day in over two hundred years without some kind of war on earth. Political, tribal, religious, territorial, civil, regional and global wars. We’ve had a “seven day” war, a “thousand day” war and wars that have lasted a “thousand years” or more. Some wars have cost the lives of a handful of people while others have taken the lives of tens of millions. Overall, it appears the very nature of mankind is to wage war. Referring to World War I, the hopeful phrase “War to End All Wars” was a short lived misnomer. Clearly, these are the days spoken of in the scriptures: “ And they shall hear of wars, and rumours of wars. Behold I speak for mine elect’s sake; for nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. And again, because iniquity shall abound, the love of men shall wax cold; but he that shall not be overcome, the same shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:28-30)
1918 marked not only the end of World War I, but the end of at least three other wars that had been raging simultaneously: The Southern China Revolt, The Second Sino-Tibetan War and the Finnish Civil War. Not a breath had been taken before three new wars emerged in 1919; The Third Anglo-Afghan war, The Hungarian-Romanian war and the Sparticist Rising in Germany, wars few of us had any idea existed. In 1920, there were ten concurrent wars raging, some of which started well before World War I and some that ended well after. That’s how it’s been for the past two hundred years or more. Back to back battles overlapping each other as though it were a race to end the existence of mankind.
Remembrance Sunday falls on the Sunday nearest the 11th November when the first world war ended in 1918.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God!"(Matthew 5.9)
Today we try to remember. We remember the victims of war and all those who have died to help bring freedom and to help make the world a better place to live in. But today is also a stark reminder that our world is deeply broken and divided because of human violence.
For the Christian, Remembrance Day also presents a unique opportunity for us to meditate on the way of peace. God calls us to look to Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace.
In the life and teachings of Jesus we see that God establishes peace in his world in an unconventional way. Jesus does not enter into physical battle in order to defeat the enemies of God. Instead, Jesus chooses the way of non-violence. Jesus lays down his life and dies at the hand of God’s enemies in order to defeat evil. Only then does God raise Jesus from the dead in the victory over sin and death. In the person of Jesus we see the perfect example of humble obedience, sacrificial love, and life-giving peace. With this in mind, Jesus words in John 20.21 come into sharp focus: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” We are God’s sent ones, ambassadors for Christ, commissioned by the Holy Spirit to announce the good news of God’s peaceable kingdom. But what is more, we are called to embody God’s peace in the world. God is leading us to be his peacemakers.
So on this day of “remembrance” let us seize the opportunity and prayerfully take to heart the radical message of the Prince of Peace and follow his way of reconciling love. Let us discern together the ways in which God is calling us to be peacemakers in his world.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction....The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars - must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
Today we especially ‘remember’ those who have given their lives through war in service of our country. They have left home and family often to foreign lands in the search of justice, freedom and peace; the effects of which we feel in our society today. The world could have been a very different place for us without their sacrifice, which cannot and should not be forgotten.
The memories we recall this Remembrance Sunday should spur us forward in the search for true harmony and peace throughout the world. As the Lord commanded the apostles to “Do this in memory of me” we gather this day praying for the graces of the great sacrifice of Calvary to engulf the whole world that we may live in the harmony for which Christ prayed; and to our fallen we say “We will remember them”.