Friday, November 1, 2013

Making Peace With God

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God
Matthew 5:9

Reflection –  Happy feast day, everyone! All Saints is truly one of the great feasts of the church calendar, ranking with Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, the solemnities of Our Lady. In fact, in the Eastern calendar it falls the Sunday after Pentecost, appropriately, since the first fruit of the Holy Spirit is, in fact, the holiness of the saints.

In the West, the feast originally was at that time as well, but was moved to November for practical reasons: large numbers of pilgrims would come to Rome for the celebration, and there would not be enough food for them in May, when the winter stores were run low. Moving the feast to November 1, at the end of the harvest, was both practical and had its own symbolic value: the saints are the ‘harvest’ of God in the world.

Anyhow, celebrate well today. Do something fun! We’re having homemade pizza here at MH, a rare treat for us, followed by a party in celebration of these great men and women of God who bear witness to His victory.

So, back to the Beatitudes. Blessed are the peacemakers: this one may seem out of place in the list to us. The poor, the mourning, the meek, the hungry, the merciful, the pure—all of this seems to do with attitudes of mind and heart, which of course are expressed in action, but principally are interior realities, states of being, if you will.

This one takes us squarely into the field of action. Not ‘blessed are the peaceful’, but blessed are the peace-makers, those who do works that build up peace in this world. Personally, I find that a cause for great meditation, that Our Lord would choose that particular aspect of human action as one of the great Beatitudes of the Gospel.

Of course we look at the world and see the devastating harm war and violence wreak in human lives. Off hand, I cannot think of anything else in the human world that does more damage, more deeply, more extensively. War, on a societal, national level, and violence, on a domestic, personal level. In fact, I would ask: is there any real human tragedy that does not have, at its root, some manifestation of violence and hatred as its cause?

As a priest and spiritual director, I have seen as well that a person can be suffering greatly, can have all sorts of problems and afflictions and genuine distress, but if there is an underlying peace, a fundamental inner calmness, that person is basically OK. We can handle a lot, we human beings, if our inner core is at rest. Another person may have the same afflictions and problems, or even considerably smaller ones, but without that inner peace be completely overcome by them.

So to be a peacemaker, a worker for peace, is no small thing. Meanwhile, in our digital world, the world of the Internet which you and I are currently engaged in here, conflict and anger, disputation and divisiveness, polarization and invective are the order of the day. This needs to be considered carefully. This is not what Our Lord is calling us to in the Gospel. Evil needs to be opposed and the good and the true need to be proclaimed, but the level of snark and sarcasm, random polemic, name-calling and just plain nastiness that is all too common on the Internet is simply not Christian.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. Most translations render it ‘children’ in the interest of inclusivity, but the word is ‘sons’ in Greek, and I think there is an important theological truth at stake in that word choice. Namely, when we choose to dedicate our life to peace, to extending the sphere of peace and calm, to reducing the level of violence and hatred in ourselves and in the world, we are doing the work of the Son and become sons with the Son.

Identification with Christ—that is the fruit of this beatitude. And that opens up whole frontiers of meditation, doesn’t it? How did Christ make peace? What did He do for peace in this world? What price was He willing to pay so that you and I could find our way to that deep interior peace and the blessed assurance of God’s merciful love?

Well, we know the answer to that question, and I don’t need to underline it too emphatically. Tomorrow’s final beatitudes will lay it bare for us, anyhow. Happy All Saints Day, mind you – may it be indeed a day of great peace and joy, and may we know just how it came to be that peace and joy were born in the world, and just what our God has done for us to make it so.

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