10 March 2022, The Tablet

'Say No to the Devil' – the blood of Ukraine cries out to the Lord of hosts

Lent Reflection

'Say No to the Devil' – the blood of Ukraine cries out to the Lord of hosts

A pro-Ukraine banner hangs from St Salvator’s church in Prague


A priest who was active in the underground church in Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia fears that the Russian invasion of Ukraine may herald a return to a time of lies, blood and suffering

A sermon should provide a bridge between the world of the biblical text and the world of the listeners. This is no easy task in a world that in these dramatic times changes literally every day. I dare not predict what is going to happen in the days between my composing this sermon and the Sunday when I am going to preach it.

Just a short time ago, very few could imagine that Europe would be at war again; that Vladimir Putin’s Russia would exclude itself from the family of civilised countries: committing war crimes; violating international law; perfidiously and despicably attacking its weaker neighbour; and seeking to erase a democratic country from the map of the world by brutally killing its citizens, including women and children. The blood of Ukraine cries out to the Lord of Hosts.

We began Lent with the rite of the cross of ashes, accompanied by the words: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” This rite and these words confront us with our mortality, our death. They lead us to adulthood, maturity and responsibility. After Lent is over, we celebrate Easter, the holiday of the glorious victory over death and the fear of death. Then we can ask: “Where, O Death, is your victory?” Scripture tells us that we were held in bondage through the fear of death. However, we are called to freedom, to freedom from fear. The purpose of Lent is internal transformation. It represents an opportunity for liberation and re-creation.

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