Peace in Action
As I write this, we are in Lent, a time when we prepare for Easter – usually through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, simple living and self-denial – commemorating the time Jesus spent fasting in the desert, enduring and overcoming temptation in preparation for his public ministry.
Of course, self-denial is not unique to Christians. Other faiths have their own observances and the secular world also recognises the benefits of periodic fasting – from ‘Dry January’ to ‘Stoptober’. For the Christian, however, in attempting to identify with Christ – albeit in a very small way by comparison – we aim to grow in our spiritual development with Him.
For many, the last 12 months have been an extended, collective Lenten period, being denied human companionship, what we want to do or consume, and everyday life, as Jesus was in the wilderness. However, I have a sense that our enforced isolation has also generated a greater sense of community responsibility.
The scripture I have been reflecting on is Luke 22:39 – 53, which describes Jesus going with his disciples to the Mount of Olives to face his last and greatest temptation. He exhorts them to pray alongside Him so that they will not fall into temptation. His agonised prayer – ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done’, has echoes for peacemakers, who have been called to enter situations of tension and violence, as they weigh up the dangers they will face.
It is only with realism, and prayer from the depths of the heart, that they can prepare and ensure they have all the spiritual strength and physical courage from God they need. The disciples react with violence when Judas arrives with the soldiers, as they did not prepare themselves in prayer; but Jesus then gives a beautiful example of the true peacemaker– absorbing Peter’s violence into His perfect peace, and healing the man’s ear.
As peacemakers, Jesus calls us to absorb violence into the special peace He gives us and bring healing into the situation. It can seem an insurmountable task if we focus on the negatives – injustice, inequality, poverty, fear, pain, pride and revenge. However, in John 16:33, Jesus tells us: ‘I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.’
And there it is – Easter, where the battle is done and the victory over sin, the world and death is won!
May God bless you with an especially joyous Easter this year.