Thoughts To Live By…

Peace is Both Gift and Reward

Posted on: January 3, 2009

‘Peace’ is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you.” – John 14:27

What we receive from someone’s last will and testament can be a very personal and special expression of his or her love and concern for us. In His will, the Lord left His disciples peace. The traditional Hebrew shalom has a wide range of meaning. It is used as an ordinary salutation. In Scriptures however, it often indicates the well-being of men and women who live in harmony with nature, with themselves, with each other, and with God. It means not only blessing but also rest, glory, riches, salvation, and life. Simply stated, peace, is the fullness of happiness (Lv. 26:6).

By “peace,” Jesus means “shalom,” harmony, a taste of paradise, a foretaste of heaven. This is obviously not the peace that the world gives (Jn 14:27). It is a peace beyond human understanding (Phil 4:7). This shalom-peace is stronger than death and will last forever. It can be produced only by the Holy Spirit (see Gal 5:22). ).  As the gift of Jesus shalom (Greek eirene) stands for salvation which brings the bounty of messianic blessings.

God loves all men and women on earth and gives them the hope of a new era, an era of peace. His love, fully revealed in the Incarnate Son, is the foundation of universal peace. Peace is possible. It only needs to be implored from God as His gift, but it also needs to be built day by day with His help, through works of justice and love.

“All things desire for peace,” St. Augustine tells us. John XXIII expresses a similar universal desire in the first paragraph of his encyclical Pacem in Terris (1963): “All men of every age have most eagerly yearned for peace on earth.” And yet, as look at our world and see situations of un-peace: wars, violence, division, injustice, oppression and exploitation, deteriorating poverty and un-love. “We desire peace and therefore St. Thomas adds, “we desire to obtain what we desire” (Summa Theologiae, II-II, 29, 2). Hence, all men and women of good will have to pursue and work for peace of all. For “peace is either for all or for none” (SRS 26).

As a community of disciples of Jesus Christ, we have the vocation and mission to be sign and instrument of peace in the world and for the world. For the Church, to carry out her evangelizing mission means to work for peace. “For the Catholic faithful, the commitment to build peace and justice is not secondary but essential. It is to be undertaken in openness towards their brothers and sisters of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, towards the followers of other religions, and towards all men of good will” (Pope John Paul II, Message for World Day of Peace, issued December 8, 1999).

How can we become peacemaker or builder or bridges of peace?

  • Be at peace with oneself and with God. The heart of peace is the peace of the heart (Pope John Paul II). The words of St. Seraphim is worth recalling to explain this truth: “Acquire inner peace and thousands around you will find liberation.”
  • Be at peace with individuals and groups near or close to you both in hearts, space, and time. Like charity, peace begins at home. It begins with our loved ones, relatives, friends and neighbors. Neighborliness leads to peace. Hence, we are challenged by the Church: “Today there is an inescapable duty to make ourselves the neighbor of  every man, no matter who he is, and if we meet him, to come to his aid  in a positive way, whether he is an aged person abandoned by all, a  foreign worker despised without reason, a refugee, an illegitimate  child wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a starving human being who awakens our conscience by calling to mind the words of  Christ: ‘As you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you  did it to Me.'” (“Gaudium Et Spes,” 27).
  • Be at peace to everyone even to individuals and groups who do evil against you and differ from you in many ways. As St. Paul advises: “Do all you can to live at peace with everyone” (Rom 12:18).  “Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors. This will prove that we are sons and daughters of our heavenly Father” (Mt 5:44-45), do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you, love your enemies, rejoice with those who are joyful, weep with those who weep, live in peace with one another and conquer evil with good (see Rm 12:14-16, 21). Gandhi’s reminder is still relevant and urgent today: “A tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye makes the world toothless and blind.” Hence, let us promote peace for all nonviolently and peacefully.
  • Be at peace with the whole creation. Remember ultimate peace is either for the whole creation or none at all.  If we are truly at peace with ourselves, with God, with our neighbor then we should be at peace also with the created world and everything that lives in it. The whole creation will only enjoy ultimate peace when we are at peace with God, the Father and Creator of all. “If man is not at peace with God, neither the earth is at peace” (Pope John Paul II, Message, World Youth Day of Peace 1990).
  • Share to the poor, the needy and the suffering. Poverty and misery breed divisive conflicts. In fact, it is foolish to preach peace to an empty stomach. President Woodrow Wilson once said,”No one can love his neighbor on an empty stomach.” His point is an important one: We are made up soul and body.To address the soul without addressing the body is to ignore  the reality of our human makeup.  The insight of John Locke on this matter is of great importance: “A sound mind in a sound body, is a short, but full description of a happy [peaceful] state in this World . . .”
  • Pray for peace. Peace is a gift of God, hence, Christians in particular should pray for peace and for the attainment of the essential elements of peace – justice, love, freedom and truth. As Pope John Paul II writes:

To pray for peace is to pray for justice, for a right ordering of relations within and among nations and peoples. It is to pray for freedom, especially for the religious freedom that is basic human and civil right of every individual. To pray for peace is to seek God’s forgiveness, and to implore the courage to forgive those who trespassed against us (Message, World Day of Peace 2002, no. 14).

The Lord died to give us peace. Receive this gift of peace, pray and pursue it . Help build, bridge and spread peace everywhere. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall see God” (Mt 5:9).

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