|Archbishop José H. Gomez|
Jesus told us to expect the world we’re living in. “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars,” he told us.
Our news is so often the tragic news of violence and conflict — in our homes, in the streets of our neighborhoods, in other nations.
The world of fallen human nature is a world where hearts and peoples are divided by sin. It is a world where, as the prophet said, people cry for peace and there is no peace. This is the world Jesus came to redeem.
The prophets promised Jesus as the Prince of Peace. When he was born, the angels sang in the night sky, proclaiming peace on earth. St. Paul said that in Christ, God reconciled all things in heaven and on earth — making peace by the blood of his Cross.
In his Beatitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus calls each of his followers to imitate him and to share in his mission of making peace on earth.
God wants happiness and peace for his children. Peace with him as our Father. Peace with our brothers and sisters. And peace with all creation.
Peace on earth begins within the human heart. We need to know the peace of Christ in our own hearts before we can share it with others.
Before anything else, we need to know Jesus. Jesus alone can reconcile us and restore our friendship with the Father. When Jesus healed people in the Gospel, he said to them, “Go in peace.”
Peace is the fruit of conversion. The fruit of changing our lives to live by Christ’s commandment of love. Peace means trusting in God’s care, in his providence, in his plan for our lives.
When Jesus sent his first disciples out, he told them to proclaim to everyone they meet, “Peace be to this house!” In our day, Jesus is sending each of us out to spread this message of peace, heart to heart.
Peacemaking is our duty, a vital dimension of our Christian vocation.
In all the battlegrounds of the human heart, Jesus calls us to proclaim God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. He calls us to get rid of all our jealousy and selfish ambition. He calls us to do everything we can to make peace in all of our relationships.
The peace we announce as Christians is the good news of unity and communion in love. The good news of a broken world healed and broken lives put back together again.
The Beatitude he gives us is: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” It is not, “Blessed are those who are peaceful or pacified.” There’s a big difference.
Peace is work. Peace is something we build, something we have to “make.” Every day, in every circumstance.
Jesus challenges us to think about “peace” in a new way. His peace is not the world’s peace. In the Gospel, he said: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
The peace that Jesus gives us is not the false peace of those who accept injustice out of fear or in order to avoid trouble or confrontation. His peace is something worth fighting for.
When he says he came to bring a “sword,” he means we have to confront everything that stands in the way of peace. We have to stand up and oppose all the sin that we find in our own hearts and in the hearts of others. We have to fight the forces of injustice that we find in our communities and in the world.
The path to peace is paved by words of truth, works of mercy, and acts by justice. Without truth, mercy and justice, there can be no real peace — not in our hearts, not in our homes, and not in the world.
We can fool ourselves into thinking that “peace” is the absence of conflict. But true peace can only be built on the foundation of right relationships — right relations with God and right relations with others.
So Jesus calls us to break down every obstacle that keeps people from having a right relationship with God. He calls us to bring people together and to overcome the hostilities and hardened attitudes that keep them apart.
Being peacemakers means working to help people see another point of view, the other side of the argument. It means always working to build trust, to promote understanding, and to encourage forgiveness and friendship.
So as we continue this week in our Lenten journey, let’s pray for peace — peace for ourselves and our own relations, and peace in our city and in our world.
And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary, who is the Queen of Peace, to help all of us to always be instruments of peace.
Archbishop José H. Gómez is archbishop of Los Angeles. His weekly column is provided by and appears in The Tidings, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Reach Archbishop Gomez at (213) 637-7000, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez.