In the Gospel of this weekend we hear Jesus’ final words to his beloved disciples, “…as I have loved you, you also must love one another”. In the end all that matters is love. On Anzac Day we recall this love as being expressed by the many who went to war as a sacrificial love, laying down their lives.
In this Year of Mercy, I wonder if we will ever learn the real meaning of love – of ourselves, of our families (children, parents, siblings), of our neighbours, of those with whom we work, in our parishes, in our neighbourhood, in our country, across our globe. Over the past few weeks I have been struggling with the reality that even within our church setting, people put up barriers and struggles and become angry with the other. I ponder how each of us reads the scriptures with meaning and yet living it daily seems unattainable. My head knows that we are human, but my heart agonises with our hard-heartedness. If we cannot witness to the commandment and our belief to love above all else, then how can we possibly influence the conversion of the hearts of others?
The following words are in the verse of the psalm we sang tonight:
The Lord is kind and full of compassion.
Slow to anger, rich in love.
How good are you Lord to all.
How good are you Lord to all your creatures.
These words characterise our way of life.
It is estimated that some 35 million people died during the First World War. The extent of the slaughter, the suffering and the devastation was truly horrendous. As the former Governor of Tasmania, Peter Underwood, said during his Anzac Day address in 2014, “the spirit of true remembrance” should be dedicated to:
Examining and talking about the causes of war and how we got involved in wars. We should spend less time studying Simpson’s donkey and more time looking at why we were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for so long. All this is not in order to criticise past decision makers, but in remembrance of the dead, to help us avoid doing it again in some other place, simply because we failed to examine all the alternative means of resolving conflict.
I believe the conversations must turn to those of peace.
In next week’s Gospel we will hear Jesus say the following words:
Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. (John 14:27)
During the month of May, the Hunter Ecumenical Social Justice Network will run a “Give Us a Sign” Campaign for peace. We are inviting churches and schools who have message boards (signs) outside their properties to display messages of peace. We have developed a website, www.giveusasign.org. This project emerged from conversations with the Anglican, Uniting and Catholic Churches.
The troubles of our own times can appear overwhelming. In our daily news we are bombarded with stories of war, terrorism, civil unrest and violence. Many people in our own communities do not feel any true sense of peace in themselves or in their homes. We are asking that churches and Christian organisations consider posting a message of peace on their noticeboards for at least one day per week for the weeks during the month of May. Individuals can also share creative messages of peace.
Week 1: Beginning Sunday 1 May 2016
- Peace I leave you, my peace I give to you. (John 14:27)
- Overcome indifference and win peace. (Pope Francis)
- Budget 2016. More peace, fewer subs.
Week 2: Beginning Sunday 8 May 2016
- Blessed are the peacemakers. (Matthew 5:9)
- Peace begins with a smile. (Mother Teresa)
- Close Manus and Nauru for peace’s sake.
Week 3: Beginning Sunday 15 May 2016
- May the Lord bless his people with peace. (Psalm 29)
- Make peace with yourself.
- Shalom. Assalamu alaikum.
Week 4: Beginning Sunday 22 May 2016
- Let Christ’s peace rule in your hearts. (Col 3:15)
- There is no peace without justice.
- Hate destroys the hater. Speak peace.
Week 5: Beginning Sunday 29 May 2016
- The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace. (Gal 5:22)
- World peace begins with a loving home.
- Talk is cheap. Practise peace.
- Peace on earth to those who love goodwill. (Luke 2:14)
- Still blessed after 2000 years.
- Anything war can do peace can do better.
- Make me a channel of your peace.
- Make peace not war.
- Peace in our homes. Say no to domestic violence.
- There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.
- Peace is the only battle worth waging.
- If your life is in pieces, find peace in Jesus.
- Christians, Jews, Muslims: Love one another.
- There is more to peace than the absence of war.
- Peace be to my enemies.
- Faith without peace is dead.
- Give peace a 2nd, 3rd and 4th chance.
- Build bridges not walls. Be a peaceful Christian.
- Peace is Generosity. (Archbishop Romero)
- Invest in Peace.
- Act Justly, Work for Peace.
- Called to be Peacemakers.
I invite you to explore this opportunity outside your homes, in your parishes and schools and maybe even in your workplaces. If you are able to take a photo and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org it will be posted to the website and uploaded onto social media. The aim is to bombard our thinking with messages of peace.
I have written previously about choosing a nonviolent path for life. Mahatma Gandhi once said:
A nonviolent person can do nothing, save by the power and grace of God. Without it they won’t have the courage to die without anger, without fear and without retaliation.
The practice of nonviolence comes to us from a deep-seated place of God’s indwelling. Today Jesus is calling us to ask discerning questions, and to work towards creative solutions wherever there in injustice, violence and oppression. In the last Gospel reflection in the Archdiocese of Brisbane’s Lenten Program, the following words were written:
Today the problems are greater than ever. Somewhere in the world one child will die of starvation before the end of this sentence. Sixty million people are displaced from their homes. The cycle of conflict and warfare is vicious and unrelenting.
Today the Prince of Peace calls us to follow him: wherever there is darkness and evil , to be bearers of light and goodness; wherever there is anger and hostility, to offer unconditional love, hospitality and compassion; wherever there is hunger for revenge and conflict, to work patiently for a world of peace and mercy, come what may.
And from the Book of Revelation in the weekend’s readings:
I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth… I saw the holy city… here God makes his home among the people, they will be his people and he will be their God; his name is God-with-them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone…. Now I am making the whole of creation new. (Apocalypse 21:1-5)
In the morning, I will make my way to Mass for Anzac Day to join with others in remembering, and in praying for peace. I hope you are able to invite others to contemplate the place for peace in their lives and the lives of those they touch.