This Ash Wednesday one of the great concerns for many people is the rise in knife crimes, especially among young people. People are carrying knives in numbers that they never did before and some people are using knives to stab innocent and defenceless people. People are also using knives to resolve petty disagreements at school gates, playgrounds, parks and in streets. People who have nothing to do with strangers carrying knives are randomly stabbed as they pass by, people pick fights with innocent people and stab them with knives. The number of deaths rise and the authorities seem unable to come up with solutions.
It’s not easy to understand why this all of this is has happening and why it has happened now. Difficult at any time to imagine that people could act in such a reckless way. Difficult to think that people could have such a disregard for human life that they would carry knives with the thought they would injure or take another person’s life.
To come up with a solution you have to understand the causes or things that have led to such actions. Social problems are very often at the root if these things, long term poverty, break ups in family, addictions and so on. That pressure cooker that is all of this, the lid has flown off and chaos and violence has erupted.
This Ash Wednesday we invited to fight the battle of such forces that bring confusion, chaos, conflict and even violence into people’s lives with spiritual weapons. Our chosen instrument is not blades or things that do harm but rather an array of weapons that include amongst other things, prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
To resolve anybody else’s dispute, you first have to resolve that dispute in yourself. There is a battle that rages in each of us, there is a conflict and a war going on in each of us, there is a spiritual struggle between forces in our own life.
You need to be prepared to recognise that conflict, to engage with it and to use all the spiritual weapons in your armoury to overcome the enemy within yourself.
Lent allows us to recognise that conflict, to take seriously that battle in our Christian lives and to intensify our resistance.
The greatest danger is to think that struggle does not exist and to raise the white flag. Lent if we listen closely makes us take the conflict seriously never allows us to think of raising the white flag or to surrender to the passions within us
On our newspapers, on our TV screens, they will say that knife crime is a police problem, a court problem, a social workers problem a family problem, a school problem. It is all of this, it has many faces.
But it is also a problem of sin. Sin allows us to wound, maim and kill, sin allows us to think of the stranger as an enemy. Sin allows us to do things without thinking of the consequences. Sin takes us miles from God and miles from one another.
Lent reminds us that there is a conflict raging in each one if us that could take us from God and one another and our self too. There is a conflict raging in each of us that makes us do things and think things in ways we couldn’t imagine.
The young man or woman standing with the knife after the deed wonders how they could have done the thing, what made them do it, something that ordinarily they would never have dreamed of doing.
Lent returns us to that struggle it arms us with spiritual weapons to win the battle. Not to give into our passion and the chaos and destructiveness that they bring.