How to be a force for peace in the world
by Benedict XVI
On Sunday, July 23rd, Pope Benedict XVI gave a short presentation in the parish church of the village of Rhemes Saint-George, which was a meditation on the 2nd lectionary reading for that Sunday. Here is the text of his presentation.
"Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father."
Just a quick word of meditation on the reading we have just listened to. What is striking, against the background of the dramatic situation in the Middle East, is the beauty of the vision illustrated by the apostle Paul: Christ is our peace. He has reconciled us with one another, Jews and gentiles, uniting them in his body. He overcame enmity in his body, upon the cross. With his death he has overcome enmity, and has united us all in his peace.
But what strikes us even more than the beauty of this vision is its contrast with the reality we experience and see. And we can do nothing, at first, but say to the Lord: "But Lord, what does your apostle say to us -- 'We are reconciled'?" We see in reality that we are not reconciled... There is still war among Christians, Muslims, and Jews; and there are others who foment war and are still full of enmity and violence. Where is the efficacy of your sacrifice? Where in history is this peace of which your apostle speaks?
We human beings cannot solve the mystery of history, the mystery of human freedom to say "no" to God's peace. We cannot solve the entire mystery of the revelation of the God-man, of his activity and our response. We must accept the mystery. But there are elements of an answer that the Lord gives to us.
A first element -- this reconciliation from the Lord, his sacrifice -- has not remained without efficacy. There is the great reality of the communion of the universal Church, found among all the peoples, the fabric of Eucharistic communion that transcends the boundaries of culture, civilization, peoples, and times. There is this communion, there are these "islands of peace" in the Body of Christ. They exist. And they are forces of peace in the world. If we look at history, we can see the great saints of charity who have created "oases" of this divine peace in the world, who have always rekindled his light, and were always able to reconcile and create peace. There are the martyrs who have suffered with Christ, have given this witness of peace, of the love that places a limit on violence.
And seeing that the reality of peace is there -- even if the other reality also remains -- we can go more deeply into the message of this Letter of Paul to the Ephesians. The Lord has triumphed upon the cross. He did not triumph with a new empire, with a power greater than the others and capable of destroying them; he triumphed, not in a human way, as we would imagine, with an empire more powerful than the other. He triumphed with a love capable of reaching even to death. This is God's new way of winning: he does not oppose violence with a stronger form of violence. He opposes violence with its exact opposite: love to the very end, his cross. This is God's humble way of winning: with his love -- and this is the only way it is possible -- he puts a limit on violence. This is a way of winning that seems very slow to us, but it is the real way to overcome evil, to overcome violence, and we must entrust ourselves to this divine way of winning.
Entrusting ourselves means entering actively within this divine love, participating in this work of peacemaking, in order to conform with what the Lord says: "Blessed are the peacemakers, those who work for peace, because they are the children of God." We must bring, as much as possible, our love to all those who suffer, knowing that the judge of the last judgment identifies himself with the suffering. So whatever we do to the suffering we do to the ultimate judge of our lives. This is important: that in this moment we can bring this victory of his to the world, participating actively in his charity.
Today, in a multicultural and multireligious world, many are tempted to say: "It is better for peace in the world among religions and cultures that one not speak too much about the specifics of Christianity, about Jesus, the Church, the sacraments. Let us be satisfied with the things that can be held more or less in common..." But it's not true. At this very moment -- at a moment of a great abuse in the name of God -- we need the God who triumphed upon the cross, who wins not by violence, but by his love. At this very moment, we need the face of Christ, in order to know the true face of God and thus to bring reconciliation and light to this world. And so together, with love, with the message of love, with all that we can do for the suffering in this world, we must also bring the witness of this God, of the victory of God precisely through the nonviolence of his cross.
So let's go back to the starting point. What we can do is give the witness of love, the witness of faith; and above all, raise a cry to God: we can pray! We are certain that our Father hears the cry of his children. At the Mass, preparing for holy communion, to receive the Body of Christ who unites us, we pray with the Church: "Deliver us, O Lord, from all evil, and grant us peace in our day." Let this be our prayer in this moment: "Deliver us from all evil, and give us peace." Not tomorrow or the next day: give us peace, Lord, today! Amen.
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