Fourth Week of Easter

Peacemaking 101

As we've seen, Jesus defeated sin when he died and rose from the dead. His Cross and Resurrection heal our relationship with God, which is intimately connected to our relationships with other human beings. After all, God created Adam and Eve in the beginning to have fellowship with him and with each other. Jesus explicitly connected love of God and love of our fellow men:

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” — Matthew 22:36-40

Love is the law of the Kingdom of Heaven, and it leads to peace. Jesus included this line in the Beatitudes, his description of a citizen of the Kingdom: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" (Matthew 5:9). But what does peacemaking actually look like?
Not long after Christ's Resurrection, the early Church was wondering the same thing. St. Paul's letters often include passages in which the Apostle instructs Christians on how to live at peace while they are waiting for Jesus to return and bring everlasting peace. Two millennia later, we find ourselves in the same basic situation, so we would do well to listen to St. Paul's advice. Here's just one representative passage from his Letter to the Romans:

Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality. Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” — Romans 12:9-19

Admittedly, that's a lot to take in all at once. Let's simplify what St. Paul is saying about peacemaking:

  • Reject evil and embrace goodness.
  • Love one another and show affection.
  • Honor others without them having to ask for it.
  • Serve the Lord first if you want to serve others.
  • Cultivate prayer, perseverance, and hope in your heart.
  • Give to the needy and be hospitable to everyone.
  • Return good for evil.
  • Share in the joy and sorrow of others.
  • Be humble and don't think too highly of yourself.
  • Do whatever you can to be at peace with everyone.
  • Trust in God's justice rather than trying to administer it yourself.

This isn't a complete list, nor is living it out an easy task, but it's a good crash course on peacemaking in light of the Resurrection.

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

This collect prayer begins the Mass for Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Jesus is calling us to "take up battle against spiritual evils." We'll explore fasting itself in a few weeks; during the week of Ash Wednesday, we're going to dig into an important set of weapons the Lord gives us to fight evil: sacramentals.

What's a sacramental? Well, if you attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, you're probably going to receive one on your forehead.