May 15, 2009

The Joyful Catholic / Rick Hermann

Making peace with people around you in our world

Rick HermannA little boy wrote this letter to God in Sunday School: “Dear God, I bet it is very hard for you to love everybody in the whole world. There are only four people in our family, and I can never do it.”

This boy is learning one of the most noble challenges in life: how to get along with other people, especially those near to you.

All families have difficulties communicating and getting along. This is the result of living in a fallen world in which we each tend to want our own way.

Growing up in my family, we were blessed because our parents taught us how to communicate openly and resolve conflicts.

We were not perfect, of course, but we were taught to resolve our differences. Disunity and estrangement were not options. We were expected to make peace.

So instead of brooding over whether or not to reconcile, we tried hard to practice forgiveness and conflict resolution.

For example, we were not allowed to give a careless apology. Our mother said, “Now look the other person in the eyes and mean it when you say it.”

Sadly, many people get stuck at a distance from each other and never reconcile. The devil gleefully instigates this disunity and perpetuates it.

Once we realize who is fanning the flames of our disunity, we find it easier to come together and triumph over our differences.

I once met a man who attended Mass every day but admitted, “I had a fight with my brother and haven’t spoken to him in 40 years.”

How sad, I thought, that he had not allowed the love of Jesus to heal his heart.

Jesus instructs, “If anyone says ‘I love God’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn 4:20).

We are created for love, meant for unity and called to peace.

Remember Jesus said the greatest commandment after loving God is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:36). The world is a marvelously different place when we take this to heart.

We get a beautiful reminder to practice this unity at every Mass when the priest says, “Let us offer each other the sign of peace.”

This is a wonderful opportunity to experience the love of God. He created us to share this divine love.

I know a woman who turns around in her pew, smiling and waving to everyone in all directions. She radiates the way things were in the Garden of Eden. She is helping God’s Kingdom to come and his will to be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.

Unfortunately, it is not always possible to make peace with everyone. Some people do not want to be reconciled, and you cannot force them. Love does not force people against their will.

Some people frown during the sign of peace or look down at the floor. Some are loners who seem to pray “Give me this day my daily bread” rather than “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Let us pray that Jesus will enter the hearts of these strangers like he entered the locked room where his disciples were hiding in fear. They need to hear his healing words, “Peace be with you.”

As we joyfully offer the sign of peace to be reconciled into the family of God, may our smiles fill us with the peace and love of Christ.

This is a foretaste of our eternal life to come, a welcome glimpse of heaven on Earth.

(Rick Hermann of St. Louis is a Catholic author and career coach. His e-mail address is

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