“Blessed are the Peacemakers”
Last week we reflected on Jesus’ teaching on the Beatitudes and learned that by their contradiction to the ways of the world, they inherently call us to conversion – to turn to the way of the Lord and see with eyes of faith. In light of the scourge of war and other acts of violence perpetuated throughout the world, including the continuing persecution of Christians – as well as daily acts of antagonism, discord and injustice in our own country – it might be helpful to consider the beatitude, “Blessed are the Peacemakers,” as we struggle to imagine how we might be agents of peace ourselves.
In his 2013 Message for the World Day of Peace, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on this teaching from Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and explained that “to become authentic peacemakers, it is fundamental to keep in mind our transcendent dimension and to enter into constant dialogue with God, the Father of mercy, whereby we implore the redemption achieved for us by His only-begotten Son. In this way, mankind can overcome that progressive dimming and rejection of peace which is sin in all its forms: selfishness and violence, greed and the will to power and dominion, intolerance, hatred and unjust structures.”
In a world riven by tension and conflict, we can neither despair about the prospects for peace nor abandon praying for peace. What we can do is be attentive to nurturing the virtue of peacemaking in our own lives, realizing that “the attainment of peace depends above all on recognizing that we are, in God, one human family” (2013 Message). A critical dimension of peacemaking is not backing away from bringing the Lord and the Gospel to bear on issues such as crime, racism, poverty, discrimination and disregard for human life which plague our secularized society. As Catholics, we have a particular responsibility to remind the world of a shared commitment to the common good and genuine justice as the only way to live in communities in which the dignity and rights of all human persons are respected.
Imagine how much more harsh our world would be if we did not hear, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the peacemakers.” What would our communities be like if we were not commanded, “You shall not kill. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness”?
Our culture has hope because Christians have heard Jesus’ say, “You should love your neighbor as yourself” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Christians have lived by and shared that teaching in a way that it provides a moral framework which is “good news” for Christians and non-Christians alike. Through our shared human effort joined to the gift of Christ, we can know a true, just and lasting peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”