On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20: 19-21)
On October 1, 2017, a lone gunman on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada murdered 58 people and injured close to 500 people in a volley of gunfire. Tragically, it is another reminder of the violence which seems to have pervaded the very fabric of our daily lives, leaving all of us more afraid and definitely feeling more vulnerable than the day before. Where can we escape the fear of violence invading our lives, we ask ourselves, and then our lives change in response as we feebly try to protect ourselves and our loved ones from future mayhem that may come our way.
On Friday evening, October 6th, more than a hundred people gathered in our church to pray for peace and an end to violence. The service was created in a sense of immediacy as people (myself included) struggled to grapple with the enormity of the tragedy in Las Vegas and the desire to do something… anything… when confronted with such evil. So we prayed for peace and an end to violence.
Dictionaries tell us that peace can be defined as: “a freedom from disturbance… a quiet and tranquility, as well as a freedom from or cessation of war and violence.” (from Google’s definition). But we also know that peace from a spiritual perspective is more than that – it is being in a right relationship with God and one another. It is a “wholeness” in those relationships.
Our desire to be whole leads us to pray for peace because we know that “…nothing will be impossible for God.” (Luke 1:37).
It is important to remember, however, that peace must begin with us. Fr. Matt Jamesson reminds us that “The call for universal peace from God is preconditioned by an acknowledgement of the lack of peace and love in oneself. Psalm 51 is the calling for reparation (penance) or from the Latin “reparere” which is “to repair.” What should be repaired first is one’s own heart – by the acknowledgement of one’s own wrong-doings, one’s contribution to the atmosphere of death through selfishness. After this, the prayer for peace becomes a more powerful act of intercession.”
Once we are able to repair our own hearts, then we can begin the arduous work of being agents of peace in the world. This may seem a Herculean task but it really does happen one person at a time, just as violence and evil begins one person at a time. We all know that God is more powerful than Satan and that good conquers evil. As people of faith we know the power of love and that is precisely how peace will win the day – LOVE. The love of Christ modeled for us in his sacrifice and death on the cross… the love that is given to us at conception when God infuses in us the gift of faith… the love which offers us hope in the midst of seemingly insurmountable odds. It is love which conquers violence and evil, and it begins with us.
I am an optimistic person. In spite of the force of evil alive in the world today, I still hold out hope and have faith that fallen humanity will redeem itself through Jesus Christ and the power of love. While I occasionally find myself discouraged by the lack of civility toward each other and the seeming futility in addressing evil in the world, I see signs of hope… from the many testimonials of love and sacrifice from victims of the violence in Las Vegas to quieter stories of people coming together in peace and love in our daily lives.
Let’s pray for an end to violence in the world, in our nation, on the streets of Chicago and in the communities in which we live. Let’s also pray for our fallen brothers and sisters who have been victimized by violence that they rest in peace. Finally, let us offer our prayers to a loving God that we might have the courage to be agents of Christ’s love in the world. Let our resolve to be agents of peace and love be assured by our faith that
“…nothing will be impossible for God.”
May God bless you always.