On the blood of innocents
Fr. Robert McTeigue, SJ, gives a profound reflection on the state of the nation . . .
From time to time, I have taught a philosophy course called “God and the Problem of Evil.” I begin the course with a quote from Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov:
“Imagine that you yourself are building an edifice of human destiny that has the ultimate aim of making people happy and giving them finally peace and rest, but that to achieve this, you are faced inevitably and inescapably with torturing just one tiny baby, say that small fellow who was just beating his fists on his chest, so that you would be building your edifice on his unrequited tears — would you agree to be its architect under those conditions? Tell me, and don’t lie!”
I tell my students that whatever we say about the problem of evil, we must be answerable to Dostoyevsky and that tearful child. Otherwise, our words are empty.
Now imagine this. Imagine a nation hearing the words of Dostoyevsky and saying, “Yes! Let us build such a world! Let us build an edifice of human destiny that will make us happy, free, prosperous, unburdened and joyful. And let us not be satisfied with building it on the unrequited tears of one innocent child. No, let us build our great earthly city on the blood of innocent children — the blood of countless innocent children, as many children as it takes to secure our freedom and our joy. Without apology, without shame, without regret, let us become drunk on the blood of our young! So let it be, by the power of choice. Our will be done!”
Imagine living in such a nation. What would the sane people do? More specifically, what would true followers of Christ do in such a nation? I think, if Christians were to live in such an imaginary nation, they might recall the words of St. Paul: “For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil 3:18).
Such hypothetical Christians, in such an imaginary nation, committing to memory those words of St. Paul, would also do well to recall the stinging words of Christ: “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than the children of light” (Lk 16:8). In other words, Christians in such an imaginary nation would have to admit that their country could have come to such a sorry state only if there had been a previous catastrophic failure in teaching, wisdom and holiness for at least a generation. If all who called themselves Christian were true followers of Christ, if Christ had been made truly known and loved in their land, then such an imaginary nation would never have come to such a sorry state. And Christians would have to admit, with Jesus, that the children of this world have been much more effective, much more bold, much more clever than the children of light.
If there were such a nation gone mad, what would the Christians there have to do? They would have to point to the Eucharistic altar, and declare to God, themselves and the world: “The resistance starts here! The resistance starts now!” Only a sanctified people who are ready to die and rise with Christ for the life of the world could overcome such dark madness. Such Christians would leave the altar, and go out into the world, committed to prayer, fasting and penance. Then they would work really hard to get really smart really fast, because they would know that any delay, any loss of nerve, any hesitation, means that more innocent blood would be shed. They would know that they have to become more effective, more daring, more clever than the children of this world. They would know that unless they become saints, scholars, poets, warriors and heroes, lives will be lost, souls will be lost, and worst of all, God will not be glorified.
But, this is all just a story, isn’t it? There could never be such an imaginary nation, could there? So there would never really be a need for such sanctified Christians, right? Besides who has the energy to think about such unpleasant things? Still, just in case … just in case there could ever be such an imaginary nation in fact, just in case there might be a need for a Church of the faithful remnant who can become leaven in the bread, we might wish to follow the instructions of St. Ignatius Loyola. Following his instructions at the start of his Spiritual Exercises, today, place yourself before the crucified Jesus and ask yourself these questions: “What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What shall I do for Christ?”
Fr. Robert McTeigue, SJ, is the associate dean of the Men’s Discernment Program and an adjunct professor of Philosophy at Ave Maria University. An abridged version of this article appeared in the September issue of Legatus Magazine.