Blessed are the Peacemakers

Written by parishioner: Patrick McGinley

Happy 4th of July everyone. I think it’s great that our 4th of July readings focus upon the Beatitudes. I like to think of the Beatitudes as Jesus’s way of fulfilling the 10 Commandments and showing us how to obey them at an even higher level. Aiming higher is what I like to think our nation’s founders did when they declared our independence on July 4, 1776. Like all of us, the founders of our country were not flawless. But surely there’s no flaw in their goal of forming a more perfect union and forming One Nation under God.

I’d like to focus on one particular beatitude today. It was this: “Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called children of God.”  This lofty beatitude -- to be a peacemaker -- is this a beatitude that Jesus addresses to you and to me? I don’t know about you, but I’m not expecting my cell phone to ring today, asking me to broker a peace treaty between two nations at war. The Lord knows I am NOT getting a phone call like that today. Maybe you won’t get such a phone call, either. So what is Jesus asking you and me to do when He asks us to be peacemakers?

Our first reading from the Letter of James gives us some insight to that question.  James emphasizes that faith manifests itself in doing good works. Applying that concept to Jesus’ call for peace, James writes about avoiding bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. He’s not just speaking about nations at war; he’s speaking about that lack of peace within our own hearts. We’re human. We all feel bitter, or jealous, or selfish sometimes. But the Letter of James is warning us that if we allow bitterness, jealousy or selfishness to grow within our hearts, it’s not long before our actions reflect those feelings. Actions like those are the opposite of peacemaking.

So how, then, do we become the peacemakers that Jesus calls us to be? Perhaps one answer is to find peace within our hearts. Listen to these words from Jesus’s beatitudes: “blessed are the clean of heart;” “blessed are the merciful;” “blessed are the meek.” When you hear those words, can’t you just picture the humble and peaceful actions that accompany them?

Those are humble and peaceful actions that are needed everywhere, not just in negotiations between warring nations. Despite the fact that being human means we are all sometimes bitter or jealous or selfish, nevertheless, we can put those feelings aside and treat each other with peace.

When are we the peacemakers? When we overlook the minor offenses. When we show courtesy to those who are less than courteous. When we lend a hand, even when maybe the recipient didn’t quite deserve it. And that illustrates a point. Sometimes, to be a peacemaker, the hardest step is taking the first step. Sometimes, being a peacemaker means doing the things you’d rather not do.

For that reason, perhaps there is no harder place to be a peacemaker than within our own homes. When we are in the public eye, we’re mindful to be on our best behavior. Not so when we’re behind closed doors. A wise pastor once said, “we have to be mindful not to be street angels and house devils.” Perhaps that quote refers to that old cliche about how we always hurt the ones we love. That can be so true within the family. Perhaps you’ll agree with me that if we are ever going to have peace on Earth, it is only after we find a way to have peace within our own homes.

Are there ways that you and I can foster peace within our own homes? Well, have you ever looked your spouse in the eye and said with all honesty: “Honey, you were right, I was wrong, and I’m sorry?” If you haven’t, maybe it’s because you think you might feel humiliation. But believe me when I tell you that if you say those words at an appropriate time, and you mean them, then what you’ll feel isn’t humiliation. What you’ll feel is peace.

So in conclusion, yes, Jesus set the bar high when he called us -- each and every one of us, in all places, at all times -- to be the peacemakers. Jesus did not promise that the task was going to be easy. Hey, you could count on one hand the things that Jesus asks you to do that are easy! He didn’t promise easy. What Jesus DID promise, is this: “Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called children of God.” Child of God. Hear that? Child of God. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a title that I would like to have!