Nineteenth Sunday in OT 13 August 2017
Nuclear Warfare; Prayer
There is a great deal going on in our parishes in these days: the Summer Social (THE event of the summer season at PVSR) next Sunday, our first parish picnic for St. Andrew’s on Tuesday, and VBS at PVSR beginning Monday. But we are gathered here for the greatest event, the heart and soul of who we are: together for Mass. Again I am deeply grateful to God for the opportunity to share this with you today.
About 58 years I finished elementary school, leaving St. Bernard’s in Saranac Lake. Under the tutelage of the Sisters of Mercy, some of whom also taught in Brasher Falls, I enjoyed my grade school years. Many memories are gone, but some remain with great clarity. One of those involved crawling down under our desks upon the school’s signal for an air raid drill.
These drills were probably practiced in all US schools in the 1950’s and into the 60’s to prepare us for war time bombing and to assure that we would have a better chance of survival if there should be a nuclear attack. Now even at the high point of the cold war there was precious little chance that the Russians were targeting Saranac Lake! Nevertheless, the practice got us thinking about the devastating effect of nuclear arms being released. I still remember.
That was less than two decades after the dropping of the Little Boy and Fat Man bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is estimated that 20,000 soldiers and up to 126,000 civilians were killed by the first bombing and perhaps 80,000 in the second. The devastation was horrible. We children heard clearly the stories of the devastation unleashed.
With something left of a child’s fear still in my heart, I am deeply concerned about the possible use of nuclear weapons today. The bellicose ranting of Kim Jung Un scares me. I also fear the ratcheting of tensions between the US and North Korea. Even if no one wants war, when parties come to the brink sometimes they can be pushed over.
Nuclear war is something that cannot be allowed to happen. The collateral damage in human life alone forbids it. The devastating impact on the environment is another grave concern. The use of nuclear weapons in any circumstances would be likely to lead to further use in others, and push humanity into a self-destructive spiral the likes of which we cannot imagine.
What is today’s Gospel about? If you say it’s about Peter walking on water, I don’t think that is so. Think of all that was said: Jesus had fed his people (in the feeding of the 5,000; that pales in comparison to the Eucharist). The disciples are together: in the boat, always symbolic of the Church. As usual, Jesus did not with individuals alone, but always in the midst of his followers and disciples.
A great storm came up. The disciples were fearful. They might die. And their hearts almost stopped when they saw a figure walking on the water. It looked like Jesus. But that was totally impossible! They must be seeing a ghost! And in the midst of all this Jesus said to Peter: Come! And with his help, Peter walked. On water! He trusted. Jesus helped. The impossible was accomplished.
We all feel powerless when it comes to avoiding war and conflict. Perhaps not so! Prayer can make the difference. It did in the defeat of atheistic communism. It can in bringing peace in our world today. May I ask you to pray earnestly each day for peace? Entrust it to God’s care. Jesus will again hold us up. The Hail Mary prayed once a day is a powerful prayer if we use it to commend our needs to God through Mary’s intercession. The avoidance of nuclear war and achievement of world peace are grave needs for all humanity. Live your faith. Pray for that gift. Peter and the disciples prayed together in the midst of the Church. God heard and answered. Can God want anything less for his Church today?
Msgr. John R. Murphy,
Visitation Rectory, Norfolk, NY