From John Dear on Peace
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Today there are so many areas of injustice it’s hard to know where to begin. Racism, sexism, poverty, and oppression flourish around the world. We cannot personally solve every injustice, but we can’t just sit back and allow injustice to continue. Whether we struggle for an end to racism or sexism, for the rights of the people of Sudan or the homeless, for an end to torture, or for a living wage, we can make a positive contribution that will move us all toward social, racial, political, and economic justice. (Living Peace)
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The inner life of peace means acting from a deep conviction about who we are, that each one of us is a beloved child of God, a human being called to love and serve other human beings. Living from this conviction does not mean we ignore our emotions – quite the contrary. In fact, as we go forward into the world, to places like death row, soup kitchens, or war zones, we touch the pain of the world and feel the full range of human emotions, with sorrow and anger, as we experience the pain of human tragedy and injustice. In 1985, while living in a refugee camp in El Salvador’s war zone, I felt terrible sorrow, grief, and outrage as I witnessed the death and destruction around me, but I also felt a great inner peace because I clung to my faith in the God of peace, who seemed palpably present in the suffering people around me. Deep down, I rested in God’s peace and even felt joy while I endured and resisted the horror of war with the refugees around me. (Living Peace)
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I remember one Catholic mother who came to Ground Zero to find closure over the loss of her son, hoping the trip would bear her along. She gazed over the towering wreckage and wept awhile. Then, back on the boat, she looked ;me in the eye and whispered, “I have no room for anger.”
I was astonished at her strength. The ground rules had been set by our president, and the media had made things clear: This woman’s role was to call for blood. She was supposed to be angry and vengeful. But no, this mother kept her heart to herself and let it lead the way, a path forged by grief, conscience, and love. “I feel only compassion for the families of the hijackers,” she said. “Imagine what suffering they must have known to produce such violence. What must their families be going through?” With that, she rejected out of hand any sort of retaliation. “Bombing Afghanistan will never bring my son back,” she concluded, stating what no one else dared to state. “It will only add to my grief.” Hers was a greatness I rarely encountered in anyone during those days. (A Persistent Peace)
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Companionship with Jesus is the essence of the matter. There’s no denying the truth of John’s Gospel: “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own, neither can you unless you remain in me. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you,” (John 15:4, 5, 16). I take this to heart and try to keep it close. I do it through time-honored ways: daily meditation, Bible study, life in community, service, sacraments, and solidarity with the poor. My disciplines still teach me about Jesus and fortify my discipleship to him. (A Persistent Peace)
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Most of us admire Jesus, but none of us want to undergo what he suffered, to make that journey to Jerusalem and that last, uphill climb to Calvary. In this age of pop stars and movie celebrities, we are, at best, fans of Jesus, not followers. But discipleship means walking in his footsteps from Galilee to Tabor then to Jerusalem, where Jesus turns over the tables of imperial injustice and faces arrest and execution. We may go to church, we may read the Gospels, we may respect his teachings, but to follow Jesus faithfully means to turn toward our own modern-day Jerusalems, resisting systemic injustice, putting down our swords, forgiving those who hurt us, and taking up the cross of nonviolent, suffering love in the struggle for justice and peace.
Since Jesus defended the poor, confronted injustice, challenged the ruling authorities, and broke every unjust law, his journey could only lead to a showdown with the imperial powers. Because we are his followers, our Gospel journey to peace and justice will also get us in trouble. Our discipleship to Jesus will lead us to love our neighbors, love our enemies, defend the poor, denounce injustice, break unjust laws, oppose war, and confront institutionalized violence with active nonviolence. Discipleship will disrupt our lives and take us down a path not of comfort and consolation but of pain and sacrifice. At some point, we too will want to climb a mountain in search of prayerful solitude with our beloved God.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote long ago that the problem with Christians today is that we do not want to pay the price for following Jesus. We want “cheap grace,” not the costly grace of the Gospel. Because we want cheap grace, we end up with all the trappings of church, power, ritual, and religious legalism, everything but Jesus and a living discipleship to him here and now in our own lives. (Transfiguration)