Sunday Reflection with Fr Terry Tastard - 19 July 2009

I remember seeing on TV a true story from World War II that moved me deeply.  In 1940 a German soldier stationed in Normandy had fallen in love with a local French girl.  He loved her dearly, and always behaved honourably towards her.  After D-Day he was taken prisoner by the Allies, and at the end of 1945 he was sent back to Germany.  But he loved the French girl, and in the spring of 1946, having only a little money, he walked back to Normandy to join her.  It took several weeks of walking for him to get there.  When he arrived, the local people were quire understanding, despite the horrors and tensions and grief of the war.  The couple married, and when I saw them interviewed, the former German soldier was speaking fluent French and was very much part of the local community.  Of course, it could all have been very much different.  He could have been killed by vengeful French people as he walked across France.  When he arrived, the village could have rejected him.  But none of that happened.  Love was allowed to flourish, and new beginnings took root.

 To speak of the power of love in our hostile world often sounds weak.  There are many cynics around us - perhaps even within us - who say that this is a ruthless world, where to think of the feelings of others may put you at a disadvantage.  This same voice tells us that others are different and have to be kept at a distance from us.  Love is equated with weakness, with the wishy-washy, with losing.  And yet, think about the power of love for a moment.  Without a basic love running through our world, human life would be impossible.  Without love there could be no family life;  there would be no volunteers to work for charities;  no nurse or teacher would give a minute more than they were paid for;  nations suffering from AIDS or famine could not look for help from other nations;  in short, without love, hatreds would flourish, selfishness would rule and our world would fall apart.  Love is not weakness.  Love makes us human. It gives us health and strength.  It is creative, because it allows us to see new possibilities and to take risks.

In today's second reading from Ephesians ((2.13-18) we are challenged to allow Christ to help us overcome deep divisions.  We are told that because Christ loves us so much, the barriers of hatred and suspicion must be overcome.  We are being challenged to find the reconciling power of love.  We read:  'Christ is the peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier that used to keep them apart' (2.14).  The writer (we think of him as St Paul) has in mind the ancient suspicion between Jew and Greek, between true believer and pagan.  He is saying that if people are truly Christian, then they cannot allow ancient hatreds to separate them.  They have to be changed by the love of Christ that is in them.  Again we read:  'Christ came to bring the good news of peace, peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near at hand' (2.17).

This is not a message for the past.  In fact, it is a message for today, wherever there is suspicion, division or resentment, and especially a message for those places where ancient hatreds flourish.  To such places the creative power of Christ's love offers new beginnings.  The same creative power offers new beginnings in our hearts also.

Fr Terry Tastard is Parish Priest of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, Brook Green, London W6.

Share this story