“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)
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Advent Meditation by Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, martyr
“Heaven Send Down Righteousness, and Clouds Water It” from December A.D. 1941
We’ll sing these words for only a short time, and then we’ll once again celebrate Christmas. Christ surely wanted to bring peace and freedom to all people. Yet there are many who do not celebrate Christmas every year because peace is lacking in their hearts.
Christ said to his disciples: “Peace be with you” [John 20:19]. Do these words no longer have value for us contemporary Christians because almost the whole world lives without peace? It appears that we are again living in a pagan world and that Christ must be born again and come to redeem us. However, this situation need not discourage us nor weaken our faith, for even nineteen hundred years ago – while Christ himself taught and preached – not everyone found peace.
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors (Luke 2:14). Christ surely wanted to bring peace to all people. Yet peace will only come to people of good will. So it always was, and so it will also remain as long as there are people on this earth. For as much as Christ did for us, he could do no more, I believe. He gave his is last drop of blood for us. He even left behind his own flesh and blood for us as food and drink. If we no longer have peace, the cause is now entirely within us. St. Anthony taught that no one is more fortunate and no one is more blessed than those who bear Christ in their hearts.
No well spring puts forth both sweet water and sour water at the same time. And so it is also with the human heart. For people who have Christ dwelling in their hearts will have no room for discord and envy, hatred and jealousy, vindictiveness, pride and arrogance, deceit and immorality, all of which are the work of Satan. Christ and Satan cannon rule at the same time in someone’s heart. If we want to make the world better, we must begin with ourselves. Who would go to their neighbor to extinguish a fire if their own house were burning down?
Is it right for us to pray that others know peace if we ourselves do not have it? An old adage applies here: “Those who are stuck in a swamp are not able to help others out of it.”
Would everyone have peace if God were not to stop the ravages of war, which God could easily do? Definitely not! God will not place peace and eternal well-being in us without our cooperation, for God will allow the whole world to fall to ruin rather than to take away our free will. Christ said that the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and is being torn apart, but God will not change his words now or in eternity (see Matt 11:12).
An alarming instance of this truth occurred for us in 1918. In that year, the ravages of the war came to an end. But did this end bring peace to people’s hearts? The war’s destruction and killing stopped, but the fires of hate and discord burned within people. The human family had not improved itself. Instead of thanking God, people ravenously plunged into a quest for pleasure and experienced innumerable troubles and emotions. A child had almost no place remaining in the world. Political parties sprang up, and hate and discord burned even more intensely in people’s hearts for the next twenty-one years until they ignited in the Second World War.
Many people still hold the view that only a few people bear the responsibility for all of the ravages of the war that has engulfed the whole world. But at the same time they are anxious about this war. This anxiety has sprung up in part because of the war’s possible damage to temporal goods. But it has also come about because people hold that they are blameless for everything that happens in world events. But they are seemingly too little concerned about seeking peace for themselves in order thereby to help others attain peace.
If we want to attain peace for ourselves and also for others, we must strive to imitate those who have brought peace to us. God will not remove from his compassion anyone who truly has the will for self-improvement. We may quickly have answers when we receive admonishments concerning peace, especially if we are going to lose. What is the source of these admonishments that arise in our consciences? It must be remembered that things will go better in eternity for the greatest sinners who have acknowledged their guild, repented, and have a sincere intention to improve, than for those who in their entire lives have committed perhaps only a few mortal sins, have no concern about their venial sins and have no desire for self-improvement.
No century has unfolded without a war and its ravages. War has affected people who had obtained peace for themselves and had shied away from no sacrifice for the sake of peace – which they themselves experienced and tried to bring to others. Among these peace-seekers were our saints, who saw themselves as fortunate if God sometimes sent them great suffering. Many even prayed for suffering, for they did not desire earthly fortune and material success. Patiently they bore their crosses following their Savior. God did not impose peace on these holy men and women, but they themselves often made great efforts for it as they overcame the world. Indeed, even the most Blessed Virgin Mary had to exert herself in order to obtain great grace from God. She herself spoke of this to St. Elizabeth, the abbess of the Monastery of Schönau at Bingen. The Blessed Mother [reportedly] said: “My daughter, know that I saw myself as nothing and as less worthy of God’s grace than others and hence persistently asked God for grace and virtue. And I obtained them but not without my effort. God gave me no grace without my having prepared myself for it by means of fervent requests, continuous prayer, works of penance, and great exertions.
If God sent great grace to the spotless recipient not without great efforts on her part, how much less shall we sinful people attain perfection without our great efforts? Therefore, may no sacrifice be too great for us so that we obtain true peace and so that those who already have peace may preserve it. Whoever does not find peace in this world will not find it in eternity. These short lines of the Christian blessing for houses actually say it all: “Where [there is] faith, there is love. Where there is love, there is peace. Where peace, there is blessing. Where blessing, there is God. Where God, [there is] no need.” Ω
Advent Meditation by Early CPF Adviser Fr.Louis Mary (Thomas) Merton, OCSO
Advent is the “sacrament” of the presence of God in His world, in the Mystery of Christ at work in History…This mystery is the revelation of God Himself in His Incarnate Son. But it is not merely a manifestation of the Divine Perfections, it is the concrete plan of God for the salvation of men and the restoration of the whole world in Christ.
This plan is envisaged not as a future prospect but as a present fact. The ‘last things’ are already present and realized in a hidden manner. The Kingdom of God is thus already ‘in the midst of us.’ But, the mystery can only be known by those who enter into it, who find their place in the Mystical Christ, and therefore find the mystery of Christ realized and fulfilled in themselves. Ω
Advent Meditation by Long-time CPF Adviser Fr. Daniel Berrigan, SJ
It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss—
This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;
It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction—
This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.
It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever—
This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.
It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world—
This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world.
It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers—
This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.
It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history—
This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.
So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice. Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ—the life of the world. Ω
- From Testimony: The Word Made Fresh by Fr. Daniel Berrigan, SJ (Orbis Books, 2004).
The CPF gives thanks for Fr. Dan’s life and words and asks you to pray for him during this Advent season.
HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE
by CPF co-founder Deacon Tom Cornell
November 23, A.D. 2014
Lectionary # 160:
Ez 34, 11-12, 15-17 / Ps 23 / 1 Cor 15, 20-26, 28 / Mt 25, 31-46
Our first reading today, from the Prophet Ezekiel, pictures God as a shepherd guarding and protecting his flock. But the last verse has a note of warning. “I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats.” The familiar Psalm 23 has one jarring note as well. “You spread a table before me in the sight of my foes.” In short, there are foes, we have enemies. Nevertheless, “only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord.” Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians has an eschatological tone. Eschata is the Greek word meaning the last things, that is, “death, judgment, heaven and hell.” Paul tells us that “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” That brings us to the Gospel reading for today, the Last Judgment scene from Matthew, the separation of the sheep from the goats. “Depart from you accursed….” But what is hell? Surely Dante did not take literally his own description of damnation. He knew he was writing metaphor, inspired metaphor at that.
George Bernanos said that hell is not to love anymore. If that is so, what then is heaven but a love-feast? There is an image of heaven from the rabbinical tradition of heaven and hell as each a banquet, each held in identical rooms. In one room are the damned. Plates piled with sumptuous goodies are placed before them but they gnash their teeth because they cannot reach them, their forks and spoons are too long. The room of the blessed is identical in all ways, except that all are happy and content. They use their outsized forks and spoons to feed each other.
We build our heaven, we build our hell here on earth, here and now. We bring into the next life what we have made of ourselves, sheep or goats. The Last Judgment scene in Matthew’s Gospel inspired the Church teaching of the works of mercy. Feed the hungry, give rink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, all taken from today’s Gospel reading. The Church added to bury the dead. Each time we do any of these things for the least of the brethren we do it for Jesus Christ, and conversely, whenever we refuse we refuse Jesus.
Dorothy Day liked to point out that the works of mercy are the direct opposite of the works of war: destroy their crops, poison their wells, bomb, burn their villages, their cities, their homes. Bury the dead? Yes, as many as possible, under the rubble of their own homes, fields and factories. There are spiritual works of mercy too. Instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, reprove sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive injuries, pray for the living and the dead. Again, the works of war are the exact opposite: deceive (it has been said that the first casualty of every war is the truth); intimidate, force conscience to act against its own judgment. Forgive? Not on your life. Give them back a dose of their own medicine, twice and ten times over!
And so we gather as a Catholic Peace Fellowship. We are commemorating this month the fiftieth anniversary of a retreat Thomas Merton called and led at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani on the Spiritual Roots of Protest. A. J. Muste was there, John Howard Yoder, the eminent Mennonite theologian, Dan and Philip Berrigan. Martin Luther King and Bayard Rustin had been invited but Dr. King had to go to Oslo to accept his Nobel Peace Prize, and Bayard went with him. Jim Forest and I are among those still alive. Merton gathered us around the question, Quo Warranto, mediaeval Latin for “by what right?” By what right, he asked, do we question, challenge our betters, those put in authority over us, the President and his advisers? Don’t they know more than we do about what’s going on in Viet Nam? How dare we, by what right, do we speak out against them, even actively resist?
Merton’s answer was simply to read from the book of the Prophet Jeremiah: “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped: you were too strong for me and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message. The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day. I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. I grow wear holding it in, I cannot endure it” (Jer 20, 7-9).
We do it because we have to, that’s all. At times it has been thin gruel, but it’s been a banquet nonetheless. Keep it up, lest we be counted among the goats. Ω
“Seek peace and pursue it.”- Psalm 34:15
Guided by a personalist philosophy, the Catholic Peace Fellowship works for peace before, during, and after war through education, counseling, advocacy, and accompaniment.
The Catholic Peace Fellowship (CPF) offers practical and pastoral support to military and veterans who are struggling with the contradiction between their personal participation in war and their consciences. The CPF provides:
-Counseling, advocacy, and support for conscientious objectors and selective conscientious objectors to war
-Catholic resources for conscience formation in regard to questions about war and peace for families, teachers, parishes, and campus ministers in and through web and print media, talks, lesson plans, and workshops
-Staff prepared to address what modern clinicians, philosophers and theologians call “moral injury” and what St. Augustine called “anguish of soul” or “heartfelt grief” through our David’s Heart ministry
-Spiritual direction, guidance and accompaniment for military, former military, and their families
-Information on upcoming retreat opportunities, listening circles, pilgrimages and other resources for those returned from combat and their families in the Midwest and beyond
-Experienced staff and advisors who have worked to advocate for justice for and aid in healing of those who have been in the military and their families, as well as for reparations for and outreach to victims of war in lands ravaged by combat.
Contact CPF Director, Shawn T. Storer directly at 574.339.1100 or by email at email@example.com