Catholic for Life - No. 39 A Reflection on the Quest for Peace
Peace is the blessing of the Gospel. ‘ ‘Peace to men of good will.’ And most of us regard ourselves as being of very good will.
In a troubled world, we long for peace. We pray for it. We work for it. We even fight and kill for it. Yet we see from the implementation of many prescriptions for peace that their fruit can be bitter. Very bitter. Why? For a start, the world around us, and whether we are politicians, members of peace organisations, academics or homespun experts, think and act as though peace is something that can be realised by our human efforts alone. Without turning to God. Moreover, all too often our peace principles are inconsistent. Justice for some, but not for others. Forgiveness for some, grudges and harsh retaliation for others. Amity for some, and manifest dislike for others. Patient with some, and biased judgement in the case of others. And the story goes on at all levels.
Well, what are paths to peace as expounded by those who say they know? Most of these (sets 1 &endash; 4 below) are a-religious and pragmatic.
1. A perennial notion is that peace is the opposite of war (and violence). ‘If you want peace prepare for war’ urged the Roman, Flavius Vegetius Renatus (c. 375 A.D.). Others: ‘Carry a big stick and people will think twice before troubling you’. In today’s parlance, ‘Acquire high-tech weapons, including nuclear weapons. Let your adversary think that you may use them if provoked.’ And where your suspicions about your adversary’s intentions are strong enough, consider the pre-emptive use of force, even nuclear first-strike. In the name of peace, of course! But in war everyone is a loser.
2. So, for the sake of war avoidance, the general advice is to go in for diplomacy, espionage, and disinformation, and conflict resolution and mediation. Remember, that the “national interest” must always come first, and truth does not really matter.
3. Some insist that the existing social, political, economic order is flawed and must be overthrown, by whatever means deemed necessary. Even revolution and bloodshed (although there always is the high probability that one tyranny is likely to be replaced by another!)
4. Others recommend change through recourse to non-violent methods only where possible. Citing the examples of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. But most of them forget that these iconic figures were men of deep religious faith and high principles. The Mahatma though not a Christian was inspired by Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.
5. Finally, there is peace which springs from the truest source and guarantor of peace. From the One Who is Peace. Whose way is peace, whose way is love, mercy and forgiveness. Jesus, the Christ. Whose way is an unwavering, unswerving “Yes!” to His Father. Whatever the price He had to pay. This is the way He asks us to go’
So, for those who seek Christic Peace, peace is not just a goal, it is a way of life. In public, in the workplace, in the home, and in the recesses of one’s heart. No humbug or make-believe. A case of peace by peace. A life-long process which requires fidelity to the gospel, and a resounding ‘No!’ to sin. This comes (incrementally) through cooperation with God’s grace, and humble and continual examination of one’s own conscience, and the grateful and regular reception of the sacraments. This is the peace of Christ. The gift of God. Radically different from the peace preached by a world which disdains the Word of God, and by all who mistakenly believe and act as though they are called to be wrath and vengeance in the name of God!
“Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace that the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)
Mary, our Mother, Queen of Peace, Guide us in the Ways of the Gospel of Jesus.