Today’s Gospel from St. Matthew is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount: the Beatitudes. Following up on the prayer for peace at the Vatican yesterday that included Pope Francis, Patriarch Bartolomeo I of Constantinople, and Presidents Shimon Peres of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine, I want to focus on “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “It is not enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” Robert Fulghum once said, “Peace is not something you wish for. It’s something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away.”
We are called by Christ to be people of peace. That means more than praying for peace in the world (although that, too, is a good thing). Equally important is what can we do, not just wish for and end to war, but to answer the call to be peacemaker in our everyday lives. That is, each of us must recognize that in each moment we have the ability to bring unity or strife, to bring peace or its absence. To stir love or hatred.
It is so easy to act in ways antithetical to peace. To harbor negative thoughts about others that color how I behave toward them. To gossip…to stir up trouble or disagreement. To feel the need to retaliate, at least in words, when someone hurts me.
The reality is that we can, by our individual actions, make a difference. Each of us can contribute to peace and justice in the world. Ordinary people, making ordinary decisions can make real contributions to building a better society, to transforming the world.
In this context, we might reflect on the Vow of Nonviolence of Pax Christi, the international Catholic peace movement:
Recognizing the violence in my own heart, yet trusting in the goodness and mercy of God, I vow for one year to practice the nonviolence of Jesus who taught us in the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God…You have learned how it was said, “You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy: but I say to you, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. In this way, you will be daughters and sons of your Creator in heaven.”
Before God the Creator and the Sanctifying Spirit, I vow to carry out in my life the love and example of Jesus
• By striving for peace within myself and seeking to be a peacemaker in my daily life;
• By accepting suffering rather than inflicting it;
• By refusing to retaliate in the face of provocation and violence;
• By persevering in nonviolence of tongue and heart;
• By living conscientiously and simply so that I do not deprive others of the means to live;
• By actively resisting evil and working nonviolently to abolish war and the causes of war from my own heart and from the face of the earth.
God, I trust in Your sustaining love and believe that just as You gave me the grace and desire to offer this, so You will also bestow abundant grace to fulfill it.