Peace on Earth
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’ “ (Isa. 52:7) Only those who have lived in a war zone can truly appreciated the gift of peace. It allows families to rebuild, children to return to school, businesses to be reestablished, crops to be planted and harvested, celebrations to resume, and worship and praise to flow. The peacemakers are those who look for ways to end the struggle. Jesus preached a different way than “an eye for an eye”; he modeled loving the enemy and going the second mile. It does not demonstrate weakness, but strength.
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. (4:8)The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. (29:11)But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. (37:11)
I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (12:18)Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (14:19)
Late on Christmas Eve in 1914, Allied forces heard German troops singing Christmas carols in the trenches. As the soldiers joined their voices with their enemies a remarkable ceasefire occurred. Men left their foxholes and meet on common ground under the banner of Jesus’s birth. Various accounts report exchanging of gifts and playing a friendly game of soccer. Whether these stories are accurate is difficult to confirm one hundred years later. What is true is that Christmas was the occasion for a moment of peace.
“Diplomacy is the art of conversation. It requires both listening and speaking. Eight hundred years ago, in 1219 St. Francis and Brother Illuminato accompanied the armies of western Europe to Damietta, Egypt, during the Fifth Crusade. His desire was to speak peacefully with Muslim people about Christianity, even if it meant dying as a martyr. He tried to stop the Crusaders from attacking the Muslims at the Battle of Damietta, but failed. After the defeat of the western armies, he crossed the battle line with Brother Illuminato, was arrested and beaten by Arab soldiers, and eventually was taken to the sultan, Malek al-Kamil.
After an initial attempt by Francis and the sultan to convert the other, both quickly realized that the other already knew and loved God. Francis and Illuminato remained with al-Kamil and his Sufi teacher Fakhr ad-din al-Farisi for as many as twenty days, discussing prayer and the mystical life. When Francis left, al-Kamil gave him an ivory trumpet, which is still preserved in the crypt of the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi.”
Christ turns our enemy into our brother. He is our peace.
“Lord, we long for world peace, but it is elusive as long as we demonize our enemy. You taught us to pray for our enemy, to turn the other cheek, and to trust you to be the judge. Help us to surrender our right to get even and be victorious over others. Rather, let us reach across the battlefield and find commonality. You have modelled peace for us.” Amen