God’s peace

Entrance to the peace garden, Bon Secours Retreat and Conference Center


True peace doesn’t begin with being right. It doesn’t happen because out of that certainty, we work so hard that our side wins. True peace must rather come out of healing. It begins with our understanding that we ourselves must be healed. Only when the healing of our own hearts has begun are we able to reach out to bring healing to others. Our hope should not be that the right side will win, but rather that all will be healed. Another word for this healing is reconciliation:

“God … reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Cor 5:18)

No surprise; during these last days of reflection with sister and brother clergy at a Roman Catholic retreat house, I’ve been thinking much about Jesus as I am coming to know him:

  • He didn’t sanction violence for any cause. When, in the garden across the Kidron valley that last night, Peter drew a sword to save him – and what cause could be more right – Jesus told him to put it away. He never confused any “kingdom” on earth with God’s kingdom.
  • He sought out those who were suffering, who were different, who were scorned by others, and met them with compassion. He knew each person as an individual, and he loved.
  • He healed people, physically and spiritually, everywhere he went.
  • He sent his followers out to proclaim the kingdom of God, and to heal. It’s that simple.

Fifty years ago, his eyes to the world opened by his life of contemplation in the monastery, Thomas Merton was writing incisively about the nuclear arms race and about race. I’m sad to realize how relevant his words still seem today – but then again, I trust that we work in God’s time, and live in hope:

“If we realize that we are each bound to the other members of the human race in the Mystical Body of Christ, that we must love the human race as a whole, and love all the groups which constitute it, then we can scarcely fail to realize the evil as well as the stupidity of hating any part of the Mystical Body of Christ [add here that this applies to those whose ugly speech we call out as hateful, as well as those they speak against] …. There are persons who feel quite acutely the duty of individual kindness to persons of other races, and yet who seem to be totally unconscious of the injustice of race relations as a whole…who are violently antagonistic to any effort to reform the political, economic, social, and even religious oppression of the colored race. Would this be possible to any one who really believed in the doctrine of the Mystical Body?”

And …

“It is doubtful whether for most Christians the real underlying religious issue is clearly visible. On the contrary, at least in America, the average priest and minister seems to react in much the same way as the average agnostic or atheist. The interests of the West, the NATO, and the Church are all confused with one another, and the possibility of defending the West with a nuclear first strike on Russia [substitute here North Korea] is accepted without too much hesitation as “necessary” and a “lesser evil.” We assume without question that Western society equals Christendom and Communism [substitute here “anyone who opposes us”] equals Antichrist. And we are ready to declare without hesitation that “no price is too high” to pay for our religious liberty. The cliché sounds noble, perhaps, to those who are not shocked by its all too evident meaninglessness. The fact is that genocide is too high a price, and no one, not even Christians, not even for the highest ideals, has the right to take measures that may destroy millions of innocent noncombatants and even whole defenseless populations of neutral nations or unwilling allies.”