The Christic Cascade
Christic Peace calls to peace and peace-making at all levels of being. Peace acquires new meaning, and commitment to it is renewed. The world is seen as good, God-given, not made in vain, but to be lived in. It is the divine milieu, where our humanity is called to mature and find full and authentic expression. This concomitant and imperative is the Christic Cascade.
In the Christic “Yes!’ there is an unequivocal commitment to God’s creation and to the human family beloved by God. Faith flows into deeds, into life illumined and lived in accordance with faith and love. Openness to truth underlies the Christic ‘Yes!’ because God is truth and the source of peace. There is no discomfiture in the face of the revelation that comes from science, for this is another way in which God makes known the mysteries of existence. Nonetheless, prudence is not scorned because it is remembered that very often scientific ‘truth’, is subject to modification or substitution according to the next discovery and the next best hypothesis that emerges.
Human dignity and life beyond life
In the light of scientific knowledge it is recognised that the human is the fruit of billions of years of cosmic evolution. As such, the human is that being in whom earth and universe attain reflexive consciousness, the only known embodied being on earth and of the cosmos able to think about thought, to reflect upon the abstract and the immaterial. This is possible thanks to the enabling principle enshrined within, a principle necessarily as immaterial as the concepts it recognises. For this reason it is able to deal with them, and to comprehend or at least to acknowledge both that which is dimensionless and even that which does not exist (eg. the mathematical negative, non-existence, the no-God of the atheist). Not being composed of parts it cannot break down when the body itself dies. This means that there is more to life than life itself. Death is not to be equated with annihilation. So, not only this life but even more the after-life deserves, and indeed demands, attention.
Life beyond Life
Once life has become reflexive consciousness
It cannot in fact accept utter extinction
Without biologically contradicting itself.
(Teilhard de Chardin, Hymn of the Universe: Pensées, Section 31)
The existence of mind…
As an abstract, holistic organisational pattern,
Capable even of disembodiment,
Refutes the reductionist philosophy
That we are all nothing
But moving mounds of atoms.
(Paul Davies, 1990: 229)
What exhilarates us human creatures
More than freedom,
More than the glory of achievement,
Is the joy of finding and surrendering to
A beauty greater than man,
The rapture of being possessed.
Blessed… be death.
At the moment of its coming,
An attraction more tremendous
Than any material tension
Draws our unresisting souls
Towards their proper centre.
(Teilhard de Chardin: Hymn of the Universe: Pensées, Section 45)
The intrinsic dignity and value of men and women, highlighted by this knowledge, is magnified by the Christic recognition that every human being is a child of God; that on God we depend; and that to God we are accountable. As the apostle Paul points out so pertinently: ‘We belong not to ourselves, but to God’ (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Christic vision validates the idea of the human family, and in so doing legitimises the concept of inalienable human rights, starting with the right to life from its inception to its natural termination. It challenges selfish individualism and the adulation of ‘Me’, and all the violence, whether it be physical, verbal or mental that are perpetrated in the name of self. It does this because the Christic path is about the well-being of the entire human family, of which the individual, though precious, is but a part. For this reason, choices and decisions are to called into question, where all else is subordinated to either the personal or the collective self, and because of which virtually anything can be justified. Indeed, anything that thwarts or rejects trust in and openness to God, to his will and to his gifts, and very specially to his gift of human life, is in effect a ‘No!’ to God. It is this that makes abortion, the imposition of the death penalty, euthanasia, and even the politically correct practice of artificial contraception and human sterilisation as methods of so-called birth control, either an insult to God or a vote of no-confidence in God. Because of ‘my’ propensity to this kind of pragmatism, indifference and ingratitude, ‘I’ must be ever humbly watchful.
Break through your shell of selfishness.
Selfishness is the deepest root of all unhappiness:
Your own and that of the whole world.
It feeds an insatiable hunger
That first eats up everything belonging to others,
And then causes a creature to devour itself.
(Dom Helder Camara, 1984:55)
Do you not realise that
Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit,
Who is in you,
And Whom you received from God?
You are not your own property.
You have been bought at a price.
(St. Paul, 1 Cor.6:19-20)
Peace as the absence of direct violence
For those who address issues of war, defence and direct violence, Christic peace is a movement away from the use of pressure and force, even in the name of good. Ends and means must always be consonant with the spirit of ‘shalom’, which deplores revenge, retaliation and retaliatory intent.
There is no place for casuistry and for the deliberate ambiguity that renders morally uncertain or gives the go-ahead to plans and actions that are contrary to the Christic spirit. Nor can there be moral approval of the possession of omnicidal weapons in the name of just defence, as was given to nuclear deterrence by major Christian denominations in the 1980s. The same applies to the deadly, high-tech so-called conventional weapons of today. Silence regarding the testing of such weapons, and militarism and the arms trade need also to be questioned. The fundamental obligation here is to seek, acknowledge and treat the root causes of the problems against which defence is sought.
Prayer in Central Park, Armidale, NSW
Tonight, we gather here…in our shared concern for peace and the safety of the human race… As we make this prayer, O God, we are conscious of our poverty before you and our sin. For although we proclaim you Lord, and express our hope and trust in you, and although we sigh for peace and love, our faith is weak, our hearts are small and hard.
Long have we, your people, tried to mould you to our will and command you to do our bidding. We hesitate to accept you as you want us to accept you. We are afraid to grow and mature in your way of love, because we do not wish to pay the price…
We often ask, Lord, that our enemies be converted. But how many of us see that the need for our own conversion is even greater? We claim that peace is our goal, but will not accept that peace is even more a way of life, a process. In all these matters, Lord, do we bear true witness to you and your Kingdom? Or are we false?
Why…do we…choose the path of blood, instead of choosing you? Why, O God, do we today despise your way of love, even though the path we have picked will only lead to mutual death? Why, Lord, have we rejected you…?
We pray for peace, Lord. But… our selfishness…seeks the security of the part … not of the whole. May we realise that the arms race is nourished by our narrowness and greed, in our rejection of your message of love, compassion and self-giving.
Long have we clamoured, Lord, for freedom. But the freedom that we seek, is to be free to grasp the things of earth, through subtlety or force, to draw them to our bosom, and to fashion them into gods to worship and defend to death, regardless of the needs of the poor, those of the entire human family, and of the earthly environment which we so abuse. For too long, O God, have we sought freedom without responsibility, and Christ without his cross of love. By these, Lord, we have split the atom of integrity and are blinded by our sin. Yet, in our darkness we claim vision and lead others…
Even we, who call you Father, have split and violated your Word. By our casuistry we have bent and twisted it, so often beyond recognition, to suit our purpose. Or, we are silent, apathetic, disavowing the power of the Holy Spirit, where your Word is needed most..
We pray for peace, Lord. We also ask for forgiveness and conversion. Help us dismantle the cages we have built around our hearts and minds to shut you out. Give us hope and strength and light, that we may emerge true witnesses to you. Fill us with your Spirit of Love. Make us channels of your peace.
(Palm Sunday Vigil, 1984)
Implications for ecology and environment
Christic peace is founded in respect for people, for life, for planet earth: for all creation. As the Book of Genesis asserts, ‘God saw all that he had made, and indeed it was very good’. The same book of the bible makes it clear that men and women were required to take care of what God had entrusted to them, but in going deliberately against the Creator’s plan, by opting for self-interest instead, alienation and disorientation resulted, within the human, between human beings and between humankind and nature. As the prophet Hosea observes, ‘..there is no fidelity, no tenderness, no knowledge of God in the country, only perjury and lies, slaughter, theft, adultery and violence, murder after murder. That is why the country is in mourning, and all who live in it pine away, even the wild animals and the birds of heaven; the fish of the sea themselves are perishing.’ Does this not signal that wise, responsible stewardship over nature is a condition for reconciliation between human society and God?
Christic vision expands the notion of environment, to include not only physical or socio-politico-economic milieux, but also the hearts and minds of people, themselves under assault and continual threat of pollution through interior contamination. The Christic Cascade carries from principle and precept to practice. People have an active contribution to make, invited as we all are to cooperate with God, so that ‘Thy kingdom come and Thy will be done on earth’. The tenor of the scriptures is that this can only come about through prayer and concern, caring and sacrifice, a dying to self, the acceptance of God’s grace for the sake of peace and the coming of a new heaven and a new earth.
Love for all Creation
You love everything that exists.
You do not despise anything that You have made.
You love every living thing.
(Wisdom of Solomon 11: 24,26)
O blessed Lord, Creator God,
In you all things are rendered pure,
By you are strengthened to endure.
O blessed holy hand of God,
All things are sanctified by you,
Adorned, enriched, you make them new.
(Liturgy of the Hours: Week 2, The Divine Office of the Church)
Today, the dramatic threat
Of ecological breakdown
Is teaching us the extent to which
Greed and selfishness,
Both individual and collective,
Are contrary to the order of creation,
An order which is characterised
By mutual interdependence …
Modern society will find
No solution to the ecological crisis
Unless it takes a serious look
At its lifestyle.
In many parts of the world
Society is given to instant gratification
While remaining indifferent
To the damage these cause …
The seriousness of the ecological issue
Lays bare the depth of man’s moral crisis.
(John Paul II, 1990, World Day of Peace Message)
Challenging indirect violence
Christic Peace challenges all selfishness and greed that seek well-being and prosperity at the expense of others. The pernicious teaching that society and government must bow before the amoral rules of marketing economics and the user-pays doctrine is rejected, because this puts money before people, and reduces men and women to the status of commodities to be used and discarded when of no further use. There is no hesitation to proclaim that no one, no country, is entitled to keep for its exclusive use what is not needed, when others lack necessities. Not only should the superfluous wealth of rich countries be placed at the service of poor nations, but no country may claim to keep its wealth for itself alone. Tissa Balasuriya, writing from the Centre for Society and Religion in Colombo in 1972, summed up matters when he observed, ‘To develop the poor one must first civilise the rich.’
A World for All People
The world is given to all,
Not only to the rich …
Private property does not constitute for anyone
An absolute and unconditional right …
The right to private property
Must never be exercised
To the detriment of the common good.
No country can claim …
To keep its wealth
For itself alone.
(Paul VI, 1967: Encyclical, Populorum Progressio: 23, 48)
God destined the earth
And all it contains
For the use of every individual
And all peoples.
(Vatican II: Gaudium et Spes: 69, 1965)
The increase in illegal immigration
Is one of the phenomena
That reveals the profound injustice
Afflicting the relationship
Between rich and poor nations.
(Final Document adopted by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants & Itinerant Peoples, Munich, 1.10.1995)
Theology of liberation reconsidered
Viewed through the Christic lens, peace, justice and development fuse into an indivisible trinity, demanding radical innovations and transformations. When justice is redefined in Christic terms, it remains neither legalistic nor punitive, nor is it to be understood in terms of distributive economics, equal opportunity or environmental preservation alone. For, while justice is the rejection of exploitation and imperialisms of all kinds, it is also inseparable from compassion, love, mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation. That compassion, love, mercy and forgiveness have to be lived, not merely proclaimed.
Sin is the ultimate root of all injustice
.. sin is the result of a personal free act
..we need also to speak of sinful structures
and the need to change them
Liberation theology seeks first and foremost
liberation from the slavery of sin.
..to change unjust structures effectively….
personal conversion is prerequired or required simultaneously.
A Christic theology of liberation seeks not only the liberation of the materially poor and the socio-politically downtrodden, but also liberation from the multitude of poverties that keep people in chains, including those of their own making.
The good news is for all the poor, because it affords deliverance from the poverty of affluence and from the insidious poverties and bankruptcies of the spirit. It even offers deliverance for the oppressor. Emphasis is on depassement: or self-transcendence, that is the empowerment of the individual and the collectivity, through openness to God’s enabling grace, to rise above their limitations, and to become more fully human, instead of remaining mired in their own weaknesses, which many incorrectly maintain is what characterises the human.
Jesus, reading from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, announced:
‘The spirit of the Lord is on me,
For he has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives,
Sight to the blind,
To let the oppressed go free…’
(Luke 4: 18-19)
The new hermeneutic
Inherent in ‘theologies of liberation’
Leads to an essentially political
Re-reading of the Scriptures ….
The mistake here is not in bringing attention
To a political dimension
Of the readings of Scripture,
But in making of this
One dimension the principal or exclusive component.
This leads to a reductionist reading of the Bible.
Likewise, one places oneself
Within the perspective of a temporal messianism,
Which is one of the most radical of the expressions
Of secularisation of the Kingdom of God
And of its absorption
Into the immanence of human history.
(Ratzinger & Bovone 1984: 10,5 & 6)
Christic liberation is that freedom which comes in submission to the will of God out of love, not fear. This is in marked contrast to the impatient attitudes and practices of those who would further their own ends through social and political strategies, and even use theology to justify their causes and projects, and to discredit those they choose to label as oppressors and adversaries.
He learnt obedience,
Son, though he was,
Through his sufferings.
(Letter to the Hebrews 5: 8)
Christic vision sees human dignity compromised and sullied and people reduced to mere things, wherever governments, commerce, industry, research bodies and people’s organisations define progress and development primarily in quantitative, materialistic, technological, economic, consumerist and temporal terms; wherever goods and services, hedonism and licence are offered as the substance of happiness and freedom. The Christic peace paradigm rejects such interpretations. For these dazzle, disorient and de-humanise, being no more than false gods set up by the values of the day, gods which people are urged to grasp, venerate, serve, defend and kill for if ‘necessary’.
As Louis-Joseph Lebret said earlier this century, people are called to be more rather than to have more; and, that the challenge of providing goods and services is secondary to the problem of preparing people to know how to receive them. He recognised that men and women need to develop an inner capacity and resilience, so as to have more without becoming less human. Only then, would they be able to receive and use the new technologies, goods and services that the age has to offer, without being overwhelmed by them. His is a wisdom that makes no sense in a consumption-driven world and which therefore is lost upon most purveyors of ‘development’ and ‘progress’, whether of the North or South, East or West.
While the Christic development paradigm emphasises essential development needs, it goes on to show, through Lebret, that development becomes the conscientious forging of new values and new civilisations in settings where most existing institutions tend to stultify the human potential, or reduce it to solely temporal or selfish terms.(See Figure)
Love & Intelligence
Intelligence without love can only breed
A brutalising technocracy which crushes people,
Whereas love without disciplined intelligence
Leading to amateurism,
And ultimately catastrophe …
Chronic structural evils cannot be corrected
By subjective goodwill, but only by a
Concerted transformation of structures,
A task which presupposes
A rigorous and detailed understanding
Of how structures work.
The problem of indebtedness
The twentieth century draws to a close, but the problem of indebtedness of poor nations grows worse. Many will not be able to repay their debts, while servicing them has become an impossible burden for many. As a result, their development programmes are skewed, thwarted and dehumanised.
In some cases, a lowering of interest rates may be of help. In others, extending the period of the loans or freezing their debt for ten to twenty years at no extra cost may assist. Substituting debt repayment for environmental preservation could be beneficial in other instances. But there will invariably be countries where such measures alone will not solve the problem. For these the most efficacious way would be to write debt off completely.
Ancient Jewish tradition celebrated each fiftieth year as a year of jubilee. It was a year in which liberty was proclaimed to all the inhabitants of the land, unredeemed property reverted to its owners even if they had not the means for redeeming it; when the wealthy maintained the poor, charging no interest and making no profit for themselves, and freed their poor brethren from any obligations to them (Leviticus 25: 9, 28, 35 -41).
Many poor countries, particularly of sub-Saharan Africa,
Have accumulated debts which are totally unpayable…
The servicing of these unpayable debts
Imposes an intolerable and impossible burden
On the vulnerable members of the
Poorest societies in our world.
We are on the threshold of a new millennium,
Which for Christians is a jubilee,
A time traditionally, when debts are forgiven…
It is hard to imagine a more fitting symbol of the
Celebration of joy for all humanity
That this jubilee represents,
Than to assist the liberation of the people
Of these poorest countries
From the burden of unpayable debts which they carry.
(Cardinal Basil George Hume, Archbishop of Westminster, Seminar organised with Senior Executives of the World Bank and the I.M.F., February 1996)
The Tobin Tax
We support the principle of the Tobin tax,
the suggestion that a tax of 0.5%
Be imposed on all transnational financial speculation,
Whose extent today is around US $600 trillion.
This tax will thus produce around US $3 trillion
Which is around 60% of the GNP
Of all the countries of the South.
This amount can be used to write off foreign debt,
To compensate former colonies
For the loss they have suffered
And for investments,
Particularly in the social field in these countries.
Such a tax may also reduce
Speculative transfer of capital that has led to crises
Such as the one of East Asia.
(Tissa Balasuriya, Centre for Society & Religion, Colombo. 1999)
In the Christic dispensation all people are children of God, excellent reason for applying the spirit of jubilee year to this day and age. In the jubilee year par excellence, 2000 AD, this would be a fitting manner in which gratitude to God might be expressed and the new millennium welcomed (See also Pope John Paul II’s, Tertio Millennio Adveniente of 1994 ).
If the spirit of the world in the 1990s is any indication, there is every likelihood that the Jubilee Year 2000 will be no more than a superficial celebration characterised by the appropriate rhetoric, but with little or no reflection on the sin and the humbug of the second millennium, and their legacies, and with no commitment to changing direction in the decades ahead. Yet, the advent of the third millennium signals that this is kairos time, time to review all existing socioeconomic, cultural and political systems and methods radically, and to ask how best they could be fashioned into ones that are ethically, morally and environmentally more authentic and humane than those that are presently accepted. In short, can we and if so how can we get into place systems that are consistent with the Christic “Yes!’ to God?
Christic integrity and holism
The Christic search for peace is holistic, encompassing all scales and aspects of being. In bringing the individual and the collectivity under the same ethic of loving, forgiving and self-giving, Christic vision unifies the concept of peace, requiring that the means and ends of peace search at the different scales be consistent. Work for peace in the ways of peace may be undertaken at any level. No effort, however trivial it may seem is disdained, for its effects duly carry through to other levels, because peace is seen as indivisible, dynamic and interactive.
You shall be holy
Because I am holy.
(1 John 1:15)
This is my beloved Son
With whom I am well pleased;
Listen to him
(Matthew 17: 5)
‘Do to others
Whatever you would have them
Do to you.
This is the law and the prophets.’
However good, desirable or urgent may seem the cause of a person or group, to attempt to further or secure it through provocation, pressure tactics or terrorism is the assertion of self-will, incompatible with Christic peace. The lived lesson that Christ gives is clear.
The biblical account of the third temptation of Jesus Christ in the wilderness may illustrate this point. In it, the devil takes Jesus to a high mountain, shows him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour and then says to him, ‘I will give you all these, if you fall at my feet and do me homage’ (Matthew 4: 8-10). This particular temptation of Jesus may be interpreted not as one to test whether he was greedy for wealth, power and position, but perhaps, as the seductive suggestion that if he had all the kingdoms of the world under his control, he should be able to use that power to effect the changes for good he longed to see wrought on earth!
However, Jesus rejects the Satanic offer, making it clear that God could never be served or his Kingdom advanced or salvation achieved through expediency; through deviating from his primary loyalty which is to the One who sent him. His answer shows this: ‘Away with you Satan! For scripture says, “The Lord your God is the One to whom you must do homage. Him alone you must serve.”‘ Jesus probably realised that in focusing entirely on doing his Father’s will he might not succeed in accomplishing in his lifetime that which, humanly, he so much wanted to see accomplished.
Although being in the form of God,
Did not count equality with God
As something to be grasped.
Instead, he emptied himself,
Taking the form of a slave,
Becoming as human beings are.
And being in every way like a human being,
He was humbler yet,
Even to accepting death, death on a cross.
(St.Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2: 5-8)
Isaiah’s account of the Suffering Servant, the prophetic figure that foreshadows Christ, and St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, point out that the Christic path of peace is through self-emptying, humility and complete obedience to God, and the acceptance of suffering, which is their concomitant. Isaiah emphasises that both time and growth are necessary before those who are appalled by the Christic process (because what it has to offer is the very opposite of the wisdom of the world), finally concede that there is no other way to authentic peace.
Many people were appalled when they saw him.
There was nothing attractive about him,
Nothing that would draw us to him.
We despised him and rejected him;
He endured suffering and pain.
No one would even look at him;
We ignored him as if he were nothing.
But now many nations will marvel at him,
And kings will be speechless with amazement.
They will see and understand something
They had never known……
“I will lead my people
By roads they have never travelled.
I will turn their darkness into light.”
“My thoughts,” says the Lord,
“Are not like yours,
And my ways are different from yours.”
All you that have reverence for the Lord,
And obey the words of his servant,
The path you walk may be dark indeed,
But trust in the Lord,
Rely on your God.
“Come back to me,
I am the one who saves you.
I alone am the Lord,
The only one who can save you.”
(Isaiah 52:14, 53:2-3, 52:15, 42:16, 55:8,50:10,43:11)
For those who walk the paths of Christic peace, God is their saviour, their destiny and their prize. There is neither feverish desire nor need to taste as many of the world’s apparent delights as possible, lest something slips past and is missed. Their confidence flies in the face of ‘only-this-world’-liness.
Christic peace is possible, because it is not self-generated, but a gift from God, offered freely to individuals and societies regardless of their race, colour, creed or status, who would welcome it and live accordingly, inspired, upheld and transformed by the prayer of mind, of heart and of life. As such, its potential for renewal lies not in the intelligence, fitness, organisational skills, strategies and general capability of recipients, but in their willingness to listen, to ponder, to accept, to co-operate, to collaborate, to act rather than to react; to seek integrity through living justly, loving tenderly and walking humbly, trustingly with their God. All are invited to enter into that process, to become that ‘Yes!’ to God.
Christic peace is in the totally reasonable act of faith which is absolute, beyond all human calculations, which empowers and thereby gives ground for rational hope for peace on earth, drawing attention not only to symptoms of unpeacefulness but to their underlying causes. It maps peace in its fullness, in the way of peace.
Christic peace exacts a price: carrying the cross of selflessness and of self-giving which seeks no reward other than loving God and doing God’s will. This is only possible by God’s grace, through co-operating with it, through discovering the paths of love, which alone can make possible the forgiveness, the mercy and the obedience required. This is the realm into which all are invited, which few enter willingly, and which many abandon.
For those who accept Christ and his teaching, of which the Church is custodian for the sake of all humanity, there are doctrines of interconnectedness which emphasise that everything we are, everything we do, is significant, and has a transformational impact for better or for worse on others and on the world around us.
One of these is the Communion of Saints: those who live in God and those who have died in God can aid and support one another. Through their own commitment to God and through their prayer and suffering, they can help those who live in darkness. They can make up for their own sins and inadequacies and for those of others, and through their at-one-ment help to heal, restore and make whole that which is broken, divided and scattered.
The doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ holds that all who are members of that Body by virtue of their baptism, whether it be a baptism of water, of desire or of blood, contribute by their lives, either positively or negatively to its well-being, and thus to the well-being or ill-being of all.
The doctrine of Prayer teaches that all have access to God. No one is made for permanent loss or failure. Nor is the fact of human frailty and of sinfulness to be a source of discouragement or a stumbling block in the way of growth and renewal. There is trust in the compassion and mercy of God. Christ made it clear that he came for the health and wholeness of all, not for just the virtuous, but especially for those in the chains of sin.
Christ, to the Christian, is the source of possibility, the vine whose very sap flows through and nourishes its branches, his people. Unlike supposition, theory or optimism alone, Christic interconnectedness makes it credible to maintain that peace in the world is linked with what goes on at the smaller scales of societal being as well as within the individual. Through and in Christ, peace no longer remains a utopian dream. Peace becomes possible. But this takes time. Peace is not instant. The conversion of heart and of life are required.
Peace is not a flower that springs
Spontaneously from our dry earth …
Peace is the fruit of a moral
Transformation of mankind.
It demands a cultivation that is
Conceptual, ethical, psychological,
Pedagogical and juridical.
There is no improvising a true peace …
Peace is slow,
Precisely because it presumes
A spiritual evolution,
A higher education,
A new vision of human history.
Peace demands …
A change of heart.
(Pope Paul VI)
All peace search is to be respected. Just as peace is not to be imposed, neither is the Christic-Kingdom understanding of peace to be forced upon the unwilling. To accept it is a matter of choice to be made in good faith: good faith that is based on diligent search, careful thought, honesty and a heart and mind open to Goodness.
Peace, the Christian acknowledges, is a gift from God, lovingly offered. The problem, as seen elsewhere, is that both individuals and collectivities have great difficulty in accepting that gift. Where this is the case, there is reluctance to accept Jesus as the one through whom God gives peace (eg. 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Acts of the Apostles 10: 36).
The peace the scriptures allude to is not intended to be experienced only by a few individuals in their interior life, or sometime in an eschatological tomorrow, but also is for here and now. As the Judaeo-Christian scriptures make clear, peace on earth is not an idle notion (Luke 2:14). The prophet Jeremiah assures us, ‘The Lord says, “The plans I have for you are peace, not disaster”.’ St. Paul informs us, ‘God has called you to a life of peace’ (1 Corinthians 7:15). And in our day comes Pope John Paul II’s insistence: ‘Peace is our duty, our grave duty, our supreme responsibility,’ and his invitation: ‘Let us be beguiled by peace, swept away by the eyes of peace.’
The fallacy that threat, violence and retaliation are acceptable instruments of peace is not solely due to mistaking the voice of Caesar for the voice of God, or through being brainwashed by the news and example of a sinful world, but is due also to an underlying suspicion that God himself is violent, capricious and vindictive. It results from perceptions of God that are tainted by human bitterness and harsh experiences, and our immaturity in our knowledge of the ways of God.
As the theologian Bernard Häring, points out in his excellent book, ‘The Healing Power of Peace and Non-Violence’, in the Old Testament, even well-intentioned men projected their own unredeemed experiences into the image of God, and into what constituted faith in God. Great tensions are evident in that pre-Christian Testament between the faith that demands readiness to set out for violent conquest (eg. Deuteronomy 1: 21, 30; & 20: 10-18) and the faith that requires the renunciation of the politics of power and violence (eg. Isaiah 7: 3-9). We must face up to the fact that ‘for the first time in history man is able to bring this very history to an end. This obliges us to see our today …in the light of a long and horrifying history of aggression, violence, terrorism and vindictiveness… and in the light of redemption, the history of salvation of promise and of the gift of peace: God himself acting in Christ for peace and human peacefulness.’
Peace, then, challenges all of theology, because in its quest God is revealed to us as never before. Raymund Schwager, quoted by Häring, reminds us that ‘the judging God is not a beating God, but one who accepts being beaten in his own Son. Yet he does judge men by giving them over to the logic of their own doing… Hence the glory of God is no longer to be looked for in ‘holy wars’ nor in violent procedures of punishment, but in his Servant and Son…’
Peace is a concept that has grown over the years; one that continues to be fleshed out. To truly want peace is to be willing to change one’s outlook, to accept that there is a need for reorientation, radical conversion: not one conversion, but many: from day to day. Peace challenges both individual and collectivity to the core of its being.
The Christic concept of peace beckons far beyond minimalist notions and piece-meal, pragmatic approaches to peace. It invites beyond de facto despair which makes us want to opt for something less. It calls to hope and expectancy, and to working unremittingly for peace on earth. There is no room for the ‘atheism’ that is comfortable with the ‘faith’ that makes God redundant by accepting that God’s capabilities, nature and due may be determined by human beings. Nor may we regard God as merely a God of the possible, but to know and believe that He is the God of the impossible.
Nor is there any place for the agnosticism which holds that even if God exists, he is either given to caprice or leaves us to fend for ourselves without his providence; that he really does not care for people any more than he does for any other fragment or element in his creation: that in claiming special attention we flatter our egos, and cover ourselves with a security blanket. Nor can there be entertained the dualism of privatised religion which encourages worship of God at one level of being, but which at another condones the substitution of Caesar, self or Mammon for God. Faith is necessary, faith in which there it is accepted that God, though infinite majesty and mystery, is also Emmanuel, ever with, attentive to the cries and supplying the needs of his people.
Christic vision reiterates without compromise that the only way out is through peace with God, through unbegrudging forgiveness, reconciliation and healing, through humbly wanting and co-operating with the grace of God. A decision has to be made by every individual and collectivity between doing ‘my will’ and ‘Thy will.’ The crux of this tension is the cross. The cross is a cross of loving, of forgiving, of dying to self; of trusting and of beginning again. Carrying the cross becomes meaningful and possible if undertaken, not with fear or outcry and resentment, or with stoicism, but only with love and complete confidence in Someone and his grace. (See Figure).
The Glorious Paradox
While the Jews demand miracles
And the Greeks look for wisdom,
we are preaching a crucified Christ:
To the Jews an obstacle they cannot get over,
To the gentiles folly,
But to those who have been called,
Whether they are Jews or Greeks,
A Christ who is both the power of God
And the wisdom of God.
(St.Paul’s First letter to the Corinthians (1: 22-24) )
But, it is against the cross that we rail. From it we would flee. And so we dance around peace, sing songs extolling peace, but do not approach closely, through fear that peace might be more than we bargain for, that too much might be required of us if we accept its embrace. Yet everywhere the cry is ‘Peace’.
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