July 23, 2015
Finding the Peace We Crave
Were you as moved by God’s Word in the Bible at Mass last Sunday as I was?
Remember the second reading from Saint Paul?
“In Christ Jesus, you who were once far off have become near...He is our peace, who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity...He came and preached peace...” (Ephesians 2:13-18)
How’s that divine message for great timing!
Last week, I joined dozens of other pastors, rabbis, civic, police, and neighborhood leaders, and the family of Eric Garner, in a moving “prayer of reconciliation” at Mount Sinai United Christian Church in Staten Island. The high point came at the conclusion of our prayer, when Eric’s mother, and the police borough commander of Staten Island, both brought a candle up, the two then lighting a larger single candle together to signify unity and reconciliation. The symbol was potent: after a year of protests, tension, anger, marches, charges, and threats, the mother of the victim and the police commander embraced! Jesus was at work!
Remember back in October 2006, when a demented gunman shot and killed ten innocent Amish little girls in Lancaster, Pennsylvania? The nation cried! The country demanded retribution! The Amish community forgave.
On a visit to Northern Ireland a decade or so ago, during a meeting with brother priests and bishops, I asked them the reason why “the troubles” had thankfully finally subsided, and why, praise God, peace had come upon those bloody six counties. They gave me helpful background on the political and economic factors, but all nodded in agreement when one of the priests observed, “But we can’t forget the mothers! The moms of Belfast and Derry, Catholic and Protestant alike, rose up and said ‘Enough! We’re nauseated losing our husbands and sons! We are neighbors! We are Irish! We are both Christian! We are both wearied of fighting! Stop it! Bring peace!’ And,” the priest concluded, “it worked!”
How inspirational it is to recall, a month ago, when innocent churchgoers at Bible study in the AME church in Charleston were massacred by a maniac who had been welcomed in to pray. Will we ever forget the parents, friends, spouses, and children of those slaughtered, speaking to the murderer, not with threats and anger, but with words of healing and forgiveness?
We have a lot of blood spilled in the world these gloomy days: now we mourn those four Marines and the sailor in Chattanooga. For consolation and meaning, we reverently and faithfully recall the Most Precious Blood of an innocent victim shed on a hill called Calvary, on a Friday weirdly termed “Good,” that achieved the salvation, reconciliation, and peace we all crave.