Recommitting to Live the Beatitudes — By Fr. Rich, O.P.
In the first bulletin of the new year, I committed a large portion of the bulletin to sharing Pope Francis’ message celebrating the 50th World Day of Prayer for Peace. In the almost 3,000 words, his Holiness spoke about “Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace.” He offered a concise history of the power of Catholic nonviolent participation in global politics over the last 50 years. Beginning with Blessed Pope Paul VI’s declaration, “Peace is the only true direction of human progress,” he brings us to Benedict XVI’s observation of Jesus’ teaching on nonviolence, “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely a tactical behavior but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone.”
Pope Francis acknowledged that the challenge of peace is not simply a mandate for our Church. He spoke of Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan; he remembered Martin Luther King, Jr. He spoke of Leymah Gbowee, a woman who was a key figure in the non-violent protest that helped to bring about the end of the second civil war in Liberia.
“This is also a programme and a challenge for political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, and business and media executives: to apply the Beatitudes in the exercise of their respective responsibilities. It is a challenge to build up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers. It is to show mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost. To do so requires ‘the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it, and to make it a link in the chain of a new process.’ To act in this way means to choose solidarity as a way of making history and building friendship in society. Active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is truly more powerful and more fruitful than conflict. Everything in the world is inter-connected. Certainly differences can cause frictions. But let us face them constructively and non-violently, so that ‘tensions and oppositions can achieve a diversified and life-giving unity,’ preserving ‘what is valid and useful on both sides.'”
He is inviting us to make some fundamental changes in how we approach conflicts in our personal, public, and faith lives. He offers a Biblical blueprint that form the foundation for those changes.
Jesus offers a “manual” for this strategy of peacemaking in the Sermon on the Mount. The eight Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-10) provide a portrait of the person we could describe as blessed, good, and authentic. Jesus tells us, Blessed are the meek, the merciful and the peacemakers, those who are pure in heart, and those who hunger and thirst for justice.
If you’ve not had the opportunity to read the 50th anniversary prayer for peace, I invite you to do so. Even further, I would like to take this opportunity to invite each of us to make the closing line of Pope Francis’ letter a commitment for the coming year:
“In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words, and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. ‘Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace.'”