In the familiar Christmas story in Luke’s Gospel, the angels announce to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14, AV)
In a world of constant rivalry and competition, where the win-at-any-cost attitude is the common mode of operation, can there be any lasting peace? Is peace possible in a world of harbored grudges and continuous striving, fighting, and killing?
Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche’ communities, where those with mental disabilities live with their assistants in community, wrote about being in
after the genocide. A young woman came up to him and told him that seventy-five
members of her family had been assassinated. Rwanda
I can’t imagine or don’t want to imagine what that would be like. I’m not sure I could ever recover from something like that. She said, “I have so much anger and hate within me and I don’t know what to do with it. Everybody is talking about reconciliation, but nobody has asked any forgiveness. I just don’t know what to do with the hate that is within me.”
I can’t imagine having to struggle with the demons this young woman had to contend with. But she decided “no vengeance” and she took the first step toward forgiveness and finding peace.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he exhorts the church to live in harmony with one another and welcome one another just as Christ welcomed them (
were challenges to such unity. People of different ethic origins and cultural
backgrounds were brought together in their common commitment to Christ. Their
conversion to Christ did not automatically eliminate all their previous
prejudices and biases. Rom.
Paul appealed to the example of their Lord: “Each of us must please our neighbor. For Christ did not please himself . . .” (Rom 15:3-4). Jesus lived for the good of others, even when it meant bearing the insults and wrath of the powers that be without returning that wrath. Jesus absorbed the enmity and animosity unleashed against him absolving it in himself, showing us how violence can be defused and peace can be achieved.
This, of course, will not just happen; we have to create space for this to happen, for God to change us and make us instruments of peace. And we must be willing to take the necessary risks and make the necessary sacrifices.
Brother David Steindl-Rast wrote about the occasion when Tetsugen Glassman Roshi was being ordained the abbot of Riverside Zendo in
. It was a grand affair. Zen teachers
from all over the country gathered to celebrate the event. In the middle of
this solemn celebration, the beeper on somebody’s wristwatch suddenly went off.
Everybody started looking around for the poor guy to whom this happened,
because generally you are not even supposed to wear a wristwatch in the Zendo. New York
To everyone’s surprise, the new abbot himself interrupted the ceremony and said, “This was my wristwatch, and it was not a mistake. I have made a vow that regardless of what I am doing, I will interrupt it at noon and will think thoughts of peace.” And then he invited everyone present to think thoughts of peace for a world that desperately needs it.
We have to be intentional. The change we seek in our own lives and in our communities and our world will not just happen. We must pursue these changes. We must pray for them and work for them and give ourselves, like Jesus, to serving others, even if it means bearing insults without retaliation. We have to be intentional about living in harmony with God, with each other, and with are planet, and give the Spirit space to mold and shape us into instruments of peace.