Guide our feet into the way of peace. ~ Luke 1:79
Several years ago, after a tremendous snowstorm, my mom and I drove to Cortez for some groceries. After leaving City Market, we drove down Montezuma Avenue. The bare trees laden with snow stood like silent sentries between heaven and earth. The sun broke through the clouds as the storm receded. As I drove down the street, I noticed a man passed out, face down in the snow.
My mom said, “Aren’t you going to stop?” “What are we going to do?” I asked. “I don’t know. See if he’s all right. We can’t just leave him.”
I turned our car around and pulled alongside the man who was not moving. Mom and I walked over to him. As I shook his shoulder, Mom said, “Are you all right?” He moaned, so we knew he was alive. I rolled him over. His clothes were wet, and ice hung from his beard. He was a frequent resident at the Bridge Shelter where I volunteered. I remember he told me one night that he was a chef and that once he helped prepare a meal for the president and a lot of “big wigs” at a fundraiser. He laughed and said, “Now look at me.”
“Can we help you?” Mom asked. The chef opened his eyes and mumbled, “Do you have coffee? Can you take me to McDonalds? They’ll let me dry out there if I order something.”
We helped him into our car and drove to McDonalds where we bought him an extra-large coffee and two sausage McMuffins. “I’ll be O.K.,” he said. “They’ll let me stay here.” “Will you go to the shelter tonight?” I asked him. “Yeah, I’ll go,” he said. “Thanks.”
Mom and I left, and I don’t know what happened to the chef. What is peace for him and for us?
Jim Forest, a lifelong peacemaker wrote, “We live in a world where there is less and less room in the inn and less room at the table, a world that provides many occasions to despair. But every time our heart beats, every time we notice beauty, every time we respond with love rather than fear, that moment becomes a seed of peace.” We might call it a “Bethlehem Moment.”
Perhaps Jesus, the Prince of Peace, gives us no greater imperative than that of being a non-violent peacemaker. The child born in Bethlehem grows up and says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
And perhaps nothing is so completely ignored, dismissed, and distorted as Jesus’ way of non-violent peacemaking. Jesus died for us; he did not kill for us. Ronald Rolheiser writes, “Violent efforts that try for peace are themselves part of the problem.”
Coleman McCarthy, director of the Center for Teaching Peace, in an address to Lawrence University students said, “Peace is the result of love and if love was easy, we’d all be good at it.” Rolheiser adds, that all the great peacemakers such as Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, and Thomas Merton knew that “all our actions for peace must be rooted in the power of love and the power of truth.”
How can we increase peace and decrease violence?
Jim Forest writes in an article entitled “The Duty of Hope” that “Dorothy Day had a gift for seeing that no matter how damaged a person might be by life’s hard blows, he or she was truly a bearer of the divine image.” John Dear states in Living Peace, “A life of peace begins with the simplest and most basic truth: Every human being is equal to every other human being. We are all sisters and brothers, all children of the God of Peace. All life is sacred. Once we dehumanize another, then we justify killing and waging war.”
How do we start walking the way of Christ’s peace?
Emily Balch who founded the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and tirelessly worked for disarmament in our country, won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1946, the third women to receive the prestigious award. She received no congratulations from the U.S. government who had long regarded her as a dangerous radical.
Balch said, “I pledge allegiance to the world. To cherish every living thing. And to care for earth and sea and air with peace and freedom everywhere.”
May we join those radical peacemakers, those unruly women who make history, and may we, in the name of the child of Bethlehem, cherish every living thing. Blessed are the peacemakers. Amen.
Blessings and peace to all of you,