Blessed are the peacemakers….
Having been born at the height of the peace movement, it’s no wonder that my favorite songs growing up were “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” and “Let There Be Peace on Earth” or that Peter, Paul, and Mary still hold a place of honor on my iPod playlist. My early years were filled with psychedelic peace sign stickers, and I went around chanting “Make Love, Not War” long before I knew what that phrase even meant. Yet growing up in a conservative military family, I also knew that there was a controversy surrounding peaceniks, peace freaks, and hippies. There was something divisive about peace, something scandalous about the movement I found so attractive.
I was to experience this polemic again as a young adult during the first Gulf War. As a student at a Jesuit school which had ties to Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan (who were two of four churchwomen martyred in El Salvador in 1980) I was encouraged to study their lives and the writings of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Here was a man who spoke powerfully of the duty and responsibility of Christians to make peace. In his last homily, the one given moments before he was shot to death at his own altar, Romero again called on the fighters to lay down their arms and join in the celebration of the Eucharist, to engage in the rite of peace. For me, the power of his words lay not in his martyrdom, but in the fact that he said them knowing his martyrdom was inevitable. With great conviction, I joined with a handful of other students to start a chapter of Pax Christi on our campus. We had little to suffer other than a few eyerolls from those who did not take our protests seriously, and to be honest, we accomplished little as well, but it was a learning experience for me.
I learned first that peacemaking is not popular. Whether it’s making a plea for peace at a protest rally or at the lunch table, peacemakers are always seen as the ones disturbing the status quo. It’s as though the world has a vested interest in conflict and resolving differences peacefully messes with that. Second, it takes courage to be a peacemaker. Standing up for peace doesn’t just make one unpopular, it makes one the target of whatever rage is fueling the conflict. And third, as Christians, we aren’t just invited to be peacemakers, we are expected to be peacemakers. Romero said we are called to be the “voice of the voiceless.”
In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.” Then he went on quickly to say, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so people persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored?” These four verses tell us exactly what I learned as part of that little Pax Christi group. As children of God, we are expected to be peacemakers. It is part of our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ. Through our peaceful actions and by spreading the call to peace, we make the Kingdom of God visible and tangible in this world. This is our mission as the “salt of the earth.” Sometimes, that’s a thankless job, but Jesus makes it clear that if we are to follow in his footsteps, peacemaking is our duty.
~ by Lisa Lenard