No Greater LoveBy Archdeacon John Clarke
Rector of St. Paul’s Church, Charlottetown
The Guardian Newspaper, PEI
Published November 10, 2012
Jesus Christ said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15: 12 - 13) It is a particularly poignant thing for him to say, given what would happen to him. But it is also meaningful for us as we prepare to take part in the national observance of Remembrance Day.
One of the privileges of being a clergy-person is that we get to ask people about their lives: what they’ve done, what they’ve enjoyed and what they’ve regretted. One day, several years ago, I was sitting with an elderly man who was a veteran of the Second World War. After talking about the weather, his family and his work I asked him about the war. A long period of silence fell between us. He looked at the floor, then out the window, then at me. He spoke no words, there was only silence. I mentioned something about the autumn colours and we moved on to another subject.
A few months later he dies and when I met with his daughter to plan the funeral I told her about that day of silence. She said that she wasn’t surprised, that he never spoke to her of the war. The funeral director had overheard our conversation and told us that the soldiers of her father’s unit had agreed to never speak to anyone about what they had experienced. Another member of the same unit later told me that they simply wanted to spare their loved ones the pain of what they knew.
War, no matter how you look at it, is always a failure. No matter how righteous the cause, a declaration of war is admitting that all other avenues for peace have been exhausted. Politicians have failed when soldiers are placed in theatres of war. Being with so many veterans over the years has taught me this lesson: that we need to do a better job in our efforts for peace.
Not all the veterans I’ve met made a pact with their comrades to remain silent. Thankfully, some have shared the story of what they’ve experienced. The stories that I have heard are not really about glory. Remembrance Day is not about the glory of war; it is about the desire of every veteran to help a nation honour the sacrifices of soldiers and thereby reminding us that we need to work even harder for peace.
Jesus Christ also said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14.27) Clearly, peace is a hope that Jesus has for the world. And it is not the kind of peace that is simply the absence of war, but a peace that is accompanied by untroubled and unafraid hearts.
Gathering around cenotaphs across the Island, even if it’s in the wind and rain, is a testimony to our common hope for peace, that their sacrifice is not in vein, that untroubled peace is a worthy goal. Peace is the success we desire. Yes, thank a veteran and thank current members of the Canadian Forces for the service they give us. Let the deep red poppy be the symbol it was meant to be, not only of sacrifice but also of our hope for peace.