“Blessed are the peacemakers” is the theme Pope Benedict XVI has chosen for next January’s World Day of Peace observance, the Vatican announced this week.
Peacemakers are certainly needed on the global level. Point to any region on the planet, and you’ll find a place where violence is capturing headlines — places like Syria and Afghanistan, where war and political instability continue to claim innocent lives; Nigeria, which saw another round of church bombings last month; and, closer to home, Mexico, where drug cartels and organized crime have claimed thousands of lives.
For sure, much needs to be done on the national and international scenes to secure the kind of peace the pope and others of good will envision for the world. Here in Minnesota, we support these efforts with petitions at Mass and our own prayer intentions.
Closer to home
But being a peacemaker involves more than only concern for distant challenges. As Pope Benedict and other church leaders have pointed out, peacemaking is not only about changing the world — it also requires changing ourselves, by more fully embracing Jesus as a real-life role model and working to bring the peace of Christ into our families, schools, workplaces and local communities.
Peacemaking, in many ways, begins at home.
- I am a peacemaker when I listen — patiently and without interrupting — to someone with whom I disagree and try to understand their viewpoint;
- when I refuse to spread gossip, rumors and other mean-spirited remarks about co-workers and classmates;
- when I wait until the next morning before replying to an email or voice mail that makes my blood boil, so that I can be more civil and charitable in my response;
- when I forgive someone who has wronged me;
- when I accept someone’s apology;
- when I refuse to let bullies demean the dignity of classmates and seek help from a parent or trusted teacher;
- when I volunteer for charitable activities that bring hope and healing to both people and neighborhoods in need;
- when I stop judging others and realize we are all sinners in need of God’s grace and love.
Setting an example
By being a peacemaker in these ways, each of us makes a small contribution toward a world in which violence is rejected and every person is valued and respected as a child of God. It’s a way of building up relationships instead of tearing them down, of preaching the Good News by our actions and setting a good example for others.
If we can’t be peacemakers in our own day-to-day lives, how can we expect others to fill that role on a global scale?
“Blessed are the peacemakers” certainly holds for those in positions to broker peace between, and within, nations. But we, too, can contribute toward peace on earth if, as the popular hymn goes, we “let it begin with me.”