This reflection was shared by Ann Boniferro on November 26th, 2016 at an annual Advent Vigil which opens the Christmas Season at the Sisters of Providence Motherhouse. We love to share faith-based reflections on peace from across Canada. By all means, get in touch to share your reflections and be featured on this page.
Everyone wants peace. Where we differ is in what we believe to be the best way of achieving it.
As we enter this season of Advent, we hear the prophet Isaiah sharing God’s vision of all nations gathered together in peace. The Lord will teach us his ways ‘that we may walk in his paths.’ Peace is not just a concept then, but rather a way of living – of “walking in God’s paths.” If we want peace in our world, we have to choose paths of love and respect, compassion and collaboration.
Each of us has been wounded by all of the hurt and injustice that we have experienced throughout our lives: rejection, disappointment, illness, conflict. All of these experiences shape our thoughts and attitudes. In an effort to protect ourselves from the fear of further pain, we distance ourselves from one another. We become judgmental, hurtful, sometimes even cruel.
In the recent American election each side believed that their way was the only path to peace and stability, yet both were willing to incite hate and intolerance in pursuit of that peace. Peace cannot be created by labeling others as racists or crooks, nor by dismissing them as unworthy.
We are always affecting the energy around us in either positive or negative ways. Living in peace requires us to examine our own biases and to reject every hint of violence in our attitudes, gestures, words and actions. Each one of us is an image of what is happening everywhere. If we want peace in the world, we must create peace within and around ourselves. As Nan Merrill has translated Psalm 122, we must “seek the Heart of Love.”
Two weeks ago, at the PeaceQuest event “The World Remembers: An Evening for Peace,” Kate Johnson, chaplain at Queen’s University, was the final speaker. Kate, a Quaker and pacifist, is married to a retired soldier from the Canadian military. She spoke about how their relationship required each of them to listen deeply to shatter the other’s illusions about their differences. “If we want peace,” Kate said, “we must refuse to be enemies. I have yet to meet a person,” she continued, “who did not make sense when I learned their whole story.” Our path to peace begins with deep listening – to one another, and to all of God’s creation.
“All who seek the Heart of Love, those who have faced their fears, enter the gates in peace and with great joy, singing songs of thanksgiving.”
To walk in the paths of the Lord this Advent, we face our fears and become vulnerable. What will happen when we engage in peaceable conversation with those who criticize us? When we graciously accept things that don’t go our way? When we welcome those who challenge us? When we pray for those who annoy us? That is when peace will begin. The world will be changed by our example, not by our opinion.
Thomas Keating writes, “If you overcome your enemies, you’ve failed. If you make your enemies your partners, God has succeeded.” This seems contrary to human nature, but we know that God’s vision of peace is beyond our human understanding. In God’s peace, “the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, … and a little child shall lead them.” God’s peace invites us to see all of creation in new ways.
Psalm 122 continues, “To be the peace we seek, we must face our fears and our pain. There, in harmony with the cosmos, the community gathers united in love. Pray for the peace of the world!”
Be the peace you seek!