Let us work for peace in the new year Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Seeing with Jesus' Eyes, a column by Fr. Donald Lange

A good New Year’s resolution is to continue to work for peace. History has shown that helping to bring peace takes patience, prayer, and perseverance. Past human efforts to achieve peace have not been overly successful.

According to the June 1988 issue of Today in the Word, in 3,530 years of recorded history, only 286 years saw peace.

More than 8,000 peace treaties were made and then broken.

In terms of casualties, the 20th century may have been the bloodiest century in recorded history. Even now wars, terrorism, and other forms of violence reveal their ugly, familiar faces.

God must be part of peace

In no. 168 of the encyclical Pacem in Terris, Blessed Pope John XXIII wrote, “So magnificent is this aim (for peace) that human resources alone, even though inspired by the most praiseworthy good will, cannot hope to achieve it. God must come to man’s aid with his heavenly assistance if human society is to bear the closest possible resemblance to the kingdom of God.”

During a 20th century war, a young soldier crouched in a foxhole. Death was only a bomb away. His only companions were faith and fear. Then another man joined him in the foxhole. The soldier recognized him as his former teacher.

“Do you still believe in God after all this violence and war?” the teacher sneered. Mockery darkened his voice.

The soldier replied that he still believed.

He explained that God does not cause war. Humans do. God sent Jesus to show us how to live in peace. But we must listen and work together to enjoy peace. As bombs continued to drop death, the truth of the soldier’s words hit home.

Jesus taught us to respond to violence by turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, and forgiving our enemies. In Matthew 26:52, Jesus said, “Put your sword back into its sheath. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

Peace was Jesus’ farewell gift to us. After his Ascension, Christ sent the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and to strengthen us to beat our swords into plowshares, our spears into pruning hooks, and to make war no more.

Continuing efforts to achieve peace

We Catholics, led by our pope and bishops, continue Christ’s work to achieve peace. To achieve peace, we must ask God to enlighten us and strengthen us to reject hatreds that lead to war. War kills and maims our brothers, sisters, and children who are created in God’s image.

Prospects of peace in-crease when we respect the sacredness of human life. Reverence for life diminishes when we accept any form of violence as commonplace.

To help to bring peace, we must work to eliminate the poverty, injustice, and deprivation of human rights that arm hearts for war.

We can also ask our elected representatives to work for peace.

In 1961, with nuclear war threatening, President John F. Kennedy concluded his address to the United Nations General Assembly with the plea: “Together we shall save our planet, or together we shall perish in its flames.”

Pablo Casals, the great cellist, believed that we have a responsibility to work together for peace. At age 84, he began a personal worldwide crusade for peace. He sought to promote peace and brotherhood by performing his oratorio “The Manger” all over the world. He continued to do this well into his 90s. In our unique way we can work to bring peace to our family, work place, community, and world.

We learn to live in peace in our family. Responsible parents teach us to treat each other with reverence, love, and forgiveness. They teach us how to respond to difficult situations in non-violent ways.

We can help to make this year a happier new year by disarming our hearts of violence and inviting God to fill them with peace.

Our efforts can help to make this new year a more peaceful year in our homes, community, and world. Peace is one of the best gifts that we can share with Jesus, each other, and the world. Let us share the gift of peace today!

Fr. Don Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.