Artisans of peace

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

This week we remembered another anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. At the time, Pope St. John Paul II sent the following message:

“I am confident that in this time of trial all Americans will find their religious faith a source of renewed hope and the impetus for an ever more determined resolve to reject the ways of hatred and violence.

To those affected by this immense tragedy I hold up the light of the Gospel and pray that by the prompting of the Holy Spirit they will be led to an ever-closer union with the Lord Jesus Christ in the mystery of His cross and resurrection. To all I solemnly repeat the Gospel injunction not to be conquered by evil, but to conquer evil with good, to trust in the power of God’s grace to transform human hearts and to work fearlessly to shape a future of justice, peace and security for the children of our world… I cordially invoke the divine gifts of wisdom, strength and perseverance in good. To all the faithful I cordially impart my apostolic blessing as a pledge of comfort and peace in the Lord.”

Sadly, the United States have been at war ever since that tragic day. As Pope Francis has stated repeatedly, we are witnessing the unfolding of a piecemeal world war. Back in 2003 St. John Paul II also had issued stern warnings against war. Unfortunately, his prophetic voice was not heard and we see the devastation, suffering and death that surrounds us.

As you have probably seen in the parish website, our book club is reading “The last girl. My story of captivity, and my fight against the Islamic state.” by Nobel Prize winner Nadia Murad. It was mentioned by Pope Francis during an interview. He stated that reading that book helps one understand the ravages of war and the plight of those who are victims of human trafficking, that is why we took. It is a heart wrenching story that truly reveals the ravages of war. It is impossible to remain indifferent in the face of so much suffering.

Yet, we Christians always hope that reason enlightened by grace will prevail and peoples will seek a path to dialogue. We know that personal conversion, like the one of the prodigal son is needed to become artisans of peace in our homes, our communities, our nation and the world at large.

The words of St. John Paul II on Ash Wednesday 2003 when there were rumors of war raging calling us to fast and repent are as valid today as they were at the time.

“With the words of the Apostle Paul, on Ash Wednesday, the liturgy addresses to all the faithful a vigorous invitation to conversion: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God“…

Fasting has great value in the life of Christians. It is a spiritual need, in order to relate better to God. In fact, the external aspects of fasting, though important, do not convey the full measure of the practice. Joined to the practice should be a sincere desire for inner purification, readiness to obey the divine will and thoughtful solidarity with our brothers and sisters, especially the very poor.

There is also a close link between fasting and prayer. Prayer means listening to God; fasting favors this openness of heart.

We need to be aware of today’s international situation, troubled by the tensions and threats of war. It is necessary that everyone consciously assume responsibility and engage in a common effort to spare humanity another tragic conflict… We must ask God, first of all, for conversion of heart, for it is in the heart that every form of evil, every impulse to sin is rooted; we must pray and fast for the peaceful coexistence of peoples and nations…

We heard the encouraging words of the Prophet:  “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they train for war again”; and again:  “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks“. Above the upheavals of history there is the sovereign presence of God who judges human decisions. Let us open our hearts to him who will “judge between the nations“, and “decide for many peoples” and implore him to grant a future of justice and peace for all. This thought should stimulate each one of us to persevere in unceasing prayer and in an effective dedication to build a world in which selfishness may give way to solidarity and love…

Christians, in the manner of leaven, are called to live and spread a style of generosity in every realm of life, thus promoting genuine moral and civil social progress.”

We need to pray and ask the Lord for the grace to become peacemakers so as to be called children of God, as indeed we are.

Fr. Roberto M. Cid