A Pilgrim’s Notes
Fausto Gomez, OP
“All things desire peace,” St Augustine says. We all long for peace, but we look at our world and see wars, violence, injustice, oppression, and a wounded creation. Still, as St Thomas Aquinas asserts, we desire to obtain what we desire. The attainment of peace requires our contribution toward a less divisive and more peaceful world.
On the first day of every year, Christians with many other women and men of good will celebrate the World Day of Peace. Pope Francis’ Message on January 1, 2016 is entitled “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace.” Christians are asked by their humanity and faith to “win peace,” to be peacemakers in our world. Jesus the Prince of Peace says to us and all: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5:9).
Peace is a gift of God and a task for his creatures and children. God’s gift of peace is like a seed that must produce progressively from a peaceful heart fruits of truth, justice, love and freedom. Peace means “tranquility of order,” personal and social harmony, good relationships with ourselves, with God, with others and with nature.
Hereafter is my simple but demanding recipe for peacemaking, which I have prepared for myself and wish to share with you.
Be at peace with yourself and with God – To be at peace with others, I have to be at peace with myself, that is, I have to possess personal peace: “Peace begins within our hearts” (Paul VI). To be at peace with myself, I (a sinner) need to be at peace with God. Sin is division, brokenness, a betrayal of love. Through Christ, I have to be at peace with God, who is the God of peace. As the lyrics of the well-known song put it, “let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Individual peace is most fundamental: “When there is no peace in oneself, it is useless to look for it in another place” (Francois de la Rochefoucauld). I recall the words of St Seraphim: “Acquire inner peace and thousands around you will find liberation.”
Be at peace with your immediate family or community – As love of all neighbor is practiced in the first place with the closest neighbors, so also social peace must be lived, in the first place, by living in peace with the members of my family, my community, my parish, my professional association. To be at peace with others, I have to be just to them, and to love them. I have to forgive them and ask for forgiveness from them. Once I received a lovely card from a friend – a card with this message: “To forgive and be forgiven make the world new every day.” I keep repeating to myself: I talk big words on peace. They mean little if in my life with others I am intolerant, or unjust, or pharisaic, or unloving, or unforgiving. To be a peacemaker as a member of a community, I have to be respectful, honest, caring, patient, trusting, and non-violent in thoughts, words and deeds. I have to be dialogical, not dogmatic; democratic, not authoritarian; open, not closed in within myself.
Be a builder of peace in your communities –The method of the peacemakers is this: from within to without; from small community to large community; from parish to diocese to region; from nation to world. St. Paul advises us: “Do all you can to live at peace with everyone” (Rom 12:18). I have to promote peace with others. I have to work for justice and solidarity, for the promotion of the solidarity of globalization without marginalization. With all men and women of good will, I have to promote peace nonviolently, peacefully: “There is no way to peace, peace is the way” (Gandhi). I have to talk with others the language of peace and spread around the symbols of peace. To promote peace socially, I have to be truthful and responsibly free. I have to promote with others justice, human rights and integral development. I have to journey by the paths of justice and love, the paths of virtues. Truly, “an eye for an eye” increases hatred and violence!
Be at peace with the poor and needy – I cannot love God without loving the neighbor (I Jn 4:7-20). Peace is living in justice and love with all, including in particular the poor and suffering. I cannot love all neighbors without loving principally the closest and the poor (Mt 25: 31-36). St. Paul tells us: “Make real friends with the poor” (Rom 12:16). The love of preference for the poor is a necessary option stemming from my faith, hope and love. If I do not show this obligatory option in concrete merciful deeds for the poor, I am not a peacemaker. The Community of St. Egidio understands peace as “the art of encountering the poor.” There is a loud voice in our world calling our attention to care especially for the living species threatened to disappear from our earth. As Leonardo Boff reminds us, the most threatened species are the poor. We have to care with and for them. Jesus keeps telling us: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Mt 5:3), that is, those who are detached from things, and care for and share something with the really poor. The poor represent Christ in a special way: “I was hungry and you gave me food…; what you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do it to me” (see Mt 25:31-46).
Be at peace with the whole creation – The human person is a microcosm; that is, a unique individual, a rational and free being. He is also a member of the macrocosm; that is, a child of the universe. A creature of God, he is co-creator with him and under him: he was created by God to care for the whole earth (Gen 1:28), to work for the integrity of creation, which is our “common home” (Pope Francis), and not to destroy it and exploit it. Fulton Sheen wrote: “Moral garbage is the cause of ecological garbage.” Concerned humans and Christians must spread out ecological awareness, call for ecological responsibility, and peacefully fight in solidarity with others against environmental pollution and for climate justice, for a share by all persons and peoples of the common heritage that is the earth. To be at peace with creation, we also need to be at peace with God, which is the foundational peace: “If man is not at peace with God, neither the earth is at peace” (John Paul II).
Words to ponder (from an anonymous Buddhist Monk from Cambodia):
Tenderness puts peace in the heart.
A peaceful heart puts peace in the human being.
A peaceful human being puts peace in a family.
A peaceful family puts peace in a community.
A peaceful community puts peace in a nation.
A peaceful nation puts peace in the world.
Pray for Peace – Inner peace and outer peace are gifts of God that call for our cooperation with his divine gifts. We pray for peace to God through Jesus in the Holy Spirit. Prayer, meditation and contemplation are effective paths to deepen and strengthen inner peace, which is the basic requirement to work for outer peace. All religious peoples pray for peace. Christians in particular pray for peace and for the attainment of the essential elements of peace: justice, love, freedom and truth, and an unbreakable respect for human life from its beginning to its end. Christians pray for peace in the Eucharistic Celebration and offer each other – and all – a sign of peace. Our prayer will be an offering pleasing to God, if it is preceded by a sincere effort to reconcile with our brothers and sisters.
God is the God of peace, and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of peace. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, invites us constantly to be peacemakers in our family, our communities, and the whole world: “Christ is our peace… Since we think of Christ as our peace, we may call ourselves true Christians only if our lives express Christ by our own peace” (St Gregory of Nyssa).
May Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother, the Queen of Peace (Regina Pacis) help us all be committed to peace in our world – a world that longs for peace here, there and everywhere!