Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
Have you ever noticed how many times during the Mass we literally turn to God and ask him for his gifts of unity and peace?
Peace is the first thing that Jesus offers to his disciples on every one of his appearances after the resurrection. “Peace be with you.” Peace and unity is the last thing that Jesus prayed for to the Father (Jn. 17) after the Last Supper and before his arrest, trial, torture and execution. This text from John, often called the “high priestly prayer” of Jesus, asks for the kind of unity between us that Jesus has with his Father – not for the sake of peace and unity itself, but “that the world might believe” that God sent him. Our defiant divisions and protesting spirit are things that aren’t limited to the major divisions among churches. They exist too commonly in families and within communions, as churches fall in upon themselves over issues of faith and life.
Two dramatic reflections follow from John 17. First, Jesus must have considered this an awfully important goal, to be praying for it at this time.
Second, he would not have been foolish enough to pray the prayer if he knew the Father wouldn’t deliver it.
Would the Father deny the prayer of the Son? Impossible. So we must proceed with the same kind of confident faith that this is God’s will, and somehow he will accomplish it in us if we only open our hearts to his grace and inspiration.
This confident faith is apparent in Pope Francis, who has been talking with literally everyone about unity and peace. He has made visible strides to provide the context for reconciliation to take place, between religions and nations. Here is a prayer he prayed recently in the presence of leaders Abu Mazen (Abbas) and Benjamin Netanyahu when they visited Rome at his invitation:
“To him, the Father, in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, I now turn, begging the intercession of the Virgin Mary, a daughter of the Holy Land and our Mother.
Lord God of peace, hear our prayer!
“We have tried so many times and over so many years to resolve our conflicts by our own powers and by the force of our arms. How many moments of hostility and darkness have we experienced; how much blood has been shed; how many lives have been shattered; how many hopes have been buried… But our efforts have been in vain.
“Now, Lord, come to our aid! Grant us peace, teach us peace; guide our steps in the way of peace. Open our eyes and our hearts, and give us the courage to say: “Never again war!”; “With war everything is lost”. Instil in our hearts the courage to take concrete steps to achieve peace.
“Lord, God of Abraham, God of the Prophets, God of Love, you created us and you call us to live as brothers and sisters. Give us the strength daily to be instruments of peace; enable us to see everyone who crosses our path as our brother or sister. Make us sensitive to the plea of our citizens who entreat us to turn our weapons of war into implements of peace, our trepidation into confident trust, and our quarreling into forgiveness.
“Keep alive within us the flame of hope, so that with patience and perseverance we may opt for dialogue and reconciliation. In this way may peace triumph at last, and may the words “division”, “hatred” and “war” be banished from the heart of every man and woman. Lord, defuse the violence of our tongues and our hands. Renew our hearts and minds, so that the word which always brings us together will be “brother”, and our way of life will always be that of: Shalom, Peace, Salaam! Amen.”
May God bless you.