Fr John Gallagher Si writes the first of six meditations
"LET there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me". We have just begun a new year, a year full of hope and promise. We ask Christ to help us to strive for this elusive thing we crave — peace. We wish to reach the end of 1979 knowing that somehow we have made our own contribution, however small, to Christ's peace in the world.
Throughout the Old Testament period peace, or shalom, was celebrated as a gift of God. It was harmony willed and granted by the Lord of Creation. Hebrew prophets preached of the day when nations would "beat their swords into ploughshares".
Isaiah said that when the promised Spirit came, wolf and lamb, leopard and kid, lion and calf, cow and bear, would dwell together, and a child could lead them.
St Paul sees the abiding presence of the Spirit of the Risen Christ as the final stage in God's gift of peace. Peace is not merely a subjective feeling. It is consciousness of inner security achieved by community support.
The creative power of God's Peace shines forth in the advice Christ gave to his apostles when he sent them forth. He wanted their very greeting to bring forth peace upon all who gave them hospitality.
Then, surprisingly, Christ said that he did not come to cast peace upon the earth but a sword. Peace on the one hand brings inner vision and strength, but on the other creates envy and division.
The very presence of the Spirit always calls for decision and response. Some accept this call and grow, others refuse, and conflict results. The peace of Christ demands of us great unselfishness and strong faith. It looks all reality in the face, including death.
It is linked with the forgiveness of sin. Baptism, or confession — the "second baptism" — brings peace. "If there is joy anywhere in the world, it is the joy of him who is pure of heart."
We understand now why St Paul began every one of his letters with the same greeting: "Grace and Peace". It is no polite convention. It expresses Paul's conviction that the outpouring of the Spirit is a new creation. Our mission is "to pursue peace with all" so that the Kingdom of Peace will become a reality.
Our present time has been called "the age of anxiety-. The pace and complexity of modern life often cause worries, doubt, depression. Our anxiety also results from the breakdown of traditional patterns and values, especially regarding family life. We try to ease our worries by chemical crutches — drugs.
alcohol, etc. It could also be called "the age of addiction".
Yet it is to our age that Christ speaks. He did not merely promise peace to a roup of fishermen living in a slow-moving 'country 2,000 years ago. He promises his peace to us in the turmoil which surrounds us.
It is not a peace that ignores the problems we face. Following Christ does not mean turning our backs on the needs around us and pretending that everything is rosy. Christ brought peace to those who were anxious and worried. "Without warning a storm broke over the sea, so violent that the waves were breaking right Over the boat. But Christ was asleep. So they went to him and woke him saying: 'Save us, Lord, we are perishing' ". The waves were real waves, the boat was being swamped.
They were professional sailors, well aware of the dangers of the sea. Yet Christ rebuked them for being afraid while he was in the boat: "Why are you so frightened, you men of little faith?" During the Last Supper the apostles had good reason to be worried. They knew that Christ was to die a hideous death, and had just learned that one of the them was to betray him and another deny him. Yet Christ said to them: "Do not let your hearts be troubled; trust in God still and trust in me."
Help me to live this year full of hope for peace in the world. Lead my steps so I may arrive at the end of the year knowing I too will be counted among your own. You said: "Blessed be the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God". Fashion me, Lord, into a peacemaker for my corner of your world.