Peace In Perspective Apprendices
Peace in Perspective
A. Contemporary Wisdom on Peace
as absence of war
as balance of forces
as non-violent defence
Oppositional or Structural peace
as absence of structural violence
as intercultural harmony
as peace with nature
Scales of Peace
Outer peace (involving): world, nations. sub-national groups, families
Inner peace (involving): individuals
Conventional wisdom————————————Christic wisdom
goal <----------peace as -------------> process
strategy <---------peace through ----------> grace
a) social, economic, political, psychological, environmental,
b) spiritual and religious aspects
Synthesis & Authenticity
through holistic education on and commitment to Christic Peace
B. Summing Up
* For centuries the understanding of peace has been incomplete and approaches to peace have been piece-meal.
* For many, peace is the absence of war and of physical violence.
* But there is a violence that is often silent and indirect, and needs to be addressed in the interest of meaningful peace.
* Peace is an indivisible whole.
* For most of us peace is something whose price we are unwilling to pay.
* Peace ‘out there’ and peace ‘in here’ are two sides of the same coin.
* It is imperative that while we seek peace ‘out there’, we seek it without compromise ‘in here’ as well.
* This requires wisdom and continual conversion, a dying to self.
* Peace is far more than a secular, political, sociological or economic notion. Peace has spiritual, religious and ethical dimensions which for the sake of peace must to be considered.
* The view that silently proclaims that ‘this world is all you have and this world is all you will get’ leads to an incomplete understanding of peace and its processes.
* Peace is in listening for and to God, transcendent and immanent, and in echoing, as societies and as individuals, its password, ‘Thy will be done!’, and in endeavouring to live out an unequivocal, uncompromised ‘Yes!’ to God in response. Ignore this and there will be no peace.
* The opposite of peace is sin, the outcome of the conscious or unwitting ‘No’ to God, and preferential ‘Yes’ to someone or something else.
* The search for peace requires a profound turn-around from the persistent clamour of self, in its pride, selfishness and wilfulness.
* There is no place for casuistry or the deliberate ambiguity that renders morally uncertain or gives the go-ahead to plans and actions that are contrary to the Christicspirit.
* This requires the rejection of strategies of any sort that put the designs of the personal or the collective self ahead of the trusting ‘Amen!’
* Ends and means must always be consonant with the spirit of ‘shalom’, which deplores revenge, retaliation and retaliatory intent.
*There can be no peace without compassion, love, mercy, justice, and forgiveness.
* There can be none of these without humility, prayer and trust in God.
* Peace is more than a destination. It is a way of life.
* Whoever desires peace needs to sincerely try to discover what the will of God is for the individual and the collectivity.
* Peace on earth is a long-term project, a coming and a becoming, contingent upon the individual and society moving from ‘No’ towards ‘Yes’ to God.
* This is a matter that has to be addressed formally and non-formally, with ongoing reflection and instruction in support. None can afford to stand aloof, least of all those who speak in the name of religion or profess to be people of faith.
C. Discerning God’s Will
In these pages it has been emphasised that peace in its fulness is only possible through saying ‘Yes’ to God. This begets the question of how to know the will of God, a matter that generates no little confusion and controversy. To discover God’s will is on the one hand most simple, and on the other most complex.
Commonly, God’s will is not different from ethically the ‘right thing’ to do. This includes our normal day to day duties, to be carried out honestly and to the best of our ability, and in a spirit of love. However, it is self-evident that the ethically ‘right thing’ may also be what the prevailing culture, and not God, commends. Furthermore, there is a natural tendency to want to have our own way. For this reason we can easily persuade ourselves that our own wishes and the will of God concur. This may not be the case. Thus, for the sake of truth and integrity and fidelity to God, conscience cannot be its infallible reference point in all matters. It requires direction that does not spring solely from itself. To want such guidance presupposes the decision and self-discipline to submit to authentic authority.
There are many external voices and signs that people are attentive to. These include the events in and the circumstances of our lives, the wisdom of others, the signals of nature, the findings of science, the law of the land, and social customs and conventions, to name a few. But once again, the question arises as to how, amidst all of these, we may discern what God calls us to be and to do.
Some do what they think or feel is most appropriate at the moment or in their particular circumstances, and are not really concerned whether or not what they do is God’s will. Of the more conscientious, many refer to the scriptures of their religion. For the individual, these usually offer considerable guidance. Nonetheless, however rich such sources may be, problems of authenticity and interpretation arise. Moreover, there may be (seemingly) contradictory passages and verses which complicate the problem of discernment.
Praying to know the will of God and attentive listening for God to speak in our hearts go a very long way, and see most people through in their daily lives. It is also important to know and to take comfort in our confidence that the God we turn to is a loving God, who respects our desire to seek his will, despite the mistakes we may make in that quest and our continual failure to live according to his will. We take heart from the words of Jesus, unique in their promise and assurance, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me. Let anyone who believes in me come and drink’ (John 7: 37-38), and his ‘I love you as the Father loves me’ (John 15: 9).
When it comes to discerning God’s will in major matters, despite our bona fides, we may immaturely insinuate selfish desires and preferences into the equation. But torecognise and admit this takes honesty and humility, which are very much the same thing. And this is where most of us get stuck. The spirit of the age urges us to follow our nose, to blindly lead the blind, or to allow ourselves to be led by the blind. Only, it puts these propositions to us more euphemistically and flatteringly. And our egos exult in it.
We know too that obedience to someone else is abhorrent to devotees of self. This is particularly so for a generation obsessed with ‘rights’ rather than concerned with what really is right, and a generation desirous of successful outcomes and quick results. The importance of obedience is brushed aside even by several who profess to being religious, whether it be to the commandments of God, those of the Church, or to those placed in positions of authority. The tendency is to arrogate to self an authority that is self-determined, shall we say it, an infallibility denied to all others. In consequence, many have come to undervalue their religious beliefs and traditions, and are willing to compromise or to reject those which do not suit them. In so moving, however noble, rational or otherwise their intentions and rhetoric may be, they risk forsaking the Christic way, and losing themselves.
In the midst of all this, there are two options. One is to carry on regardless. The other is to ask whether there really is an authentic authority in whom the power to guide in matters of faith and morals is vested. It is difficult to find such authority on earth, although there are many claimants. See Figure
Despite human frailty and every person’s potential for sinning, notwithstanding rank and standing, in matters of faith and morals such authority is vested in theMagisterium of the Church and in Christ’s representative in the apostolic tradition, who occupies the Chair of St. Peter. This is because of Christ’s
commission and mandate, and because Christ is the Self-Revelation of God. For these reasons there is confidence in the significance of his words to his disciple, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,’ and, ‘I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind upon earth shall also be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose upon earth shall also be loosed in heaven,’ and, ‘Go and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you. I am with you always, even unto the end of the world’ (Matthew 16: 18-19; 28: 19-20).
Christ’s assurance is that the power and the guiding light of God are with his Church. It was this power that enabled the early Church to choose and put together some books from among many so as to give us the Bible. This power, vested in the authority of the Church preceded the Bible and is what guaranteed that the Bible was and is the word of God. For, either Christ meant what he said and kept and keeps his promise, regardless of tempests that rage around and within the Church, or he did not. If he did not, the Bible is no more than words of men and women, instead of the word of God given to us in the words of men and women.
By its authority, the Church, which preceded the biblical word of God, (and which the Church is custodian and divinely authorised interpreter of) provides guidance as to what God’s will is in matters of faith and morals. The Church does not speak in detail on every moral nuance. Far from it. But if we are attentive enough we can be sure torecognise the guidelines and principles that have been spelled out. We can thus inform our consciences. In the face of that God-given authority, ‘my’ own best guess or private interpretation of the scriptures must humbly bow. Or else, I’ll be setting myself up as God. And this is where the temptation lies. This is where so many succumb.
When people disagree
Disagreement is an ongoing experience over matters great and small, even among those with the best of will. Argument and reasoning all too often generate not light, but heat instead. In their difference people can suffer disappointment, estrangement, animosity and sometimes worse. As for the authority of the Magisterium of the Church, all too many look at the messenger and not liking his demeanour reject the precious message he is only the bearer of. Or, not liking the quality of the paper the message is written upon, they ignore what is written on it.
The Christic approach in such an impasse is to ask God to enter into the situation, to respect and love the one who disagrees with you, and to double-check one’s own position in a spirit of honesty. It is to put on Christ, and live out the ancient command given in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, which Christ brought together. It is what St. Paul paraphrased so clearly in his first letter to the Corinthians, and which is the essence of the peace that is Christic.
The Christic Path
Though I command languages both human and angelic,
If I speak without love
I am no more than sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.
And though I have the power of prophecy
To penetrate all mysteries and knowledge,
And though I have all the faith necessary to move mountains,
If I am without love, I am nothing.
Though I should give away to the poor all that I possess,
And even give up my body to be burned,
If I am without love, it will do me no good whatever.
Love is always patient and kind;
Love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited,
It is never rude and never seeks its own advantage.
It does not take offence or store up grievances.
Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing,
But finds joy in truth.
It is always ready to make allowances,
To trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.
Love never comes to an end…..
We know only imperfectly, and we prophesy imperfectly….
Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles,
But then we shall be seeing face to face….
As it is these remain: faith, hope and love…
And the greatest of them is love.’
(1 Corinthians 13: 1 – 13).