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March 11March 11
The first words Christ spoke to his Apostles after he rose from the dead were: “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19).
What he gave us as a gift after his resurrection, he left as a serious responsibility after his ascension: the Apostles, with the help of the Holy Spirit, were to communicate Christ’s peace to others. Therefore, the peace of Christ (Pax Christi) is both an unmerited gift and a grave responsibility that we who are disciples of the risen Lord are called to steward and defend.
The gift of peace is difficult to defend in a society that permits and even encourages violence. The deliberate killing of millions of unborn children, senseless slaughter of school children, murder and chaos in our city streets, and the madness of wars that destroy innocent civilians and wreak destruction on whole cities are the devil’s handiwork. They are certainly direct attacks on the gift of peace.
As a gift, the moral blueprint for peace has been written by God into human nature. In the incarnation of the Son, the seed of peace has been planted in human history. In the giving of the Holy Spirit, the energy for peace is constantly renewed.
But these gifts, which provide the foundation for building a culture of peace, are also given to us as a serious moral obligation. If we do not cultivate these gifts, then our relationships—with God and each other, with our inmost selves and with the world—will rot and decay, and become for us a source of great pain. Then, as we know all too well, peace can only be restored through drastic and costly measures, if at all.
The arguments we hear today for “abortion rights,” “gun control,” and the “containment of unjust aggression in Ukraine” too often miss the point entirely.
The sanctity of human life is absolute. It is not a social contract or a political stratagem. The peace of Christ has been given to us as a gift and a responsibility. There is no room for negotiation. “Thou shalt not kill” is a commandment from God, not a suggestion. Religious, political and civic leaders are called to be the guardians (stewards) of this great gift. Either they stand firm against all forms of violence, or they betray their solemn duty to protect and defend human life and build communities of peace and justice.
If we desire peace, we must be willing to work for it. And if we are willing to work for peace, that means we must be willing, first and foremost, to pray for peace.
In the words of Pope St. John Paul II, “To pray is to enter into the action of God upon history: he, the sovereign actor of history, has wished to make people his collaborators.” This is why the Holy Spirit was sent to the Apostles (and to us) to give them courage, guidance, perseverance and the ability to speak the truth with love, regardless of the challenges they encountered as they preached the Gospel to the ends of the Earth.
Of course, prayer must be accompanied by action. We must make difficult, courageous decisions—to change our laws so that abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty are outlawed; so that gun ownership is carefully regulated and certain weapons are banned; so that our schools, businesses and civic institutions are protected against rampant violence and destruction; and so that the horrors of war are never again permitted to utterly destroy nations and peoples.
The serious responsibility we have been given as stewards of the peace of Christ demands that we pray fervently and act decisively. Woe to us—missionary disciples of Jesus Christ—if we fail to safeguard the dignity of all human life from the moment of conception to natural death. Woe to us—citizens of a nation founded on liberty and justice for all—if we fail in our sacred duty to build communities of peace and justice that welcome and protect all our sisters and brothers at every stage of their lives.
Let’s put an end to the ceaseless, self-justifying talk that makes the cultural and political debates surrounding these issues so unproductive. Instead, let’s pray seriously, and act decisively, for real changes to our laws and our societal practices that will protect all human life from the insane violence we are experiencing today.
Let’s accept our God-given responsibility to be responsible stewards of the gift of peace.