Episode 5: Let Peace Begin With Us
Some of my favorite passages in scripture are written to inspire a vision of a world at peace: a world committed to achieving God’s vision of shalom. Passages about lions and lambs lying together; about beating swords into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks; and about no longer learning the ways of war – they fill me with such hope and vision and purpose. I want to live in such a world.
As we look around the globe, peace can be hard to find. Wikipedia this morning listed 55 countries in which armed conflict was currently engaged, the oldest one of which started in 1922. The war in Afghanistan is reported to have lost, by some estimates, as many as 2 million lives since its inception in 1978; and last year in the Syria civil war 76,021 deaths were recorded.
I used to attend Mass almost every day as a child. One of my favorite songs at Mass had a line that read: “let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”
I’m not sure how that works. I can’t think of a way that I can act and the war in Syria ends. I can’t imagine how anything I do or say matters to those who are fighting a war in South Kordofan in Sudan. No one at the Pentagon is going to call and ask me if I have a better way to deal with rebel uprisings in Latin America.
But thinking that way may be missing the point.
So much about our cultural upbringing conditions us to accept the high price we pay for warfare, or for managed with violence, aggression, or manipulation. We buy our children toy soldiers and guns as playthings. We invite the military to display the flag while we rise for the national anthem and are awed by flyovers at major sporting events. We produce high tech movies that desensitize us to the atrocities of war, while making heroes of those who die protecting our freedom. This is what is meant by learning the ways of war.
What would it mean for each person to choose to live differently? What would happen if more of us took seriously the commitment to let peace begin with us?
I ask myself that often, not ever really knowing how much, if any, difference it will make. I intentionally look for the best in others. When I see flaws, or experience challenges in my relationship with others, I first ask myself what there is in me that needs to see or experience them that way. I try hard to be aware of the impact that my words and my actions can have on others – and consciously choose words and actions that I believe will create the greatest possibility for a meaningful relationship. I don’t want to pretend or suggest that I always get that right – but I have cultivated over time an orientation towards peace that remains my default mode.
Fellow traveler, as we journey together on this sacred planet and through this time of Advent, let us be mindful of the impact we have on others. Let us treasure relationships that mean something to us, and choose ways that maintain a spirit of peace in the bond of love. If there is to be peace on Earth, it may just need to begin with us. Thank you for listening, and let our hearts, minds, bodies, souls, and spirits be always open to where the God of peace, of Shalom, calls us on our journeys into the Mystic.