Working for peace

This past Monday Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., led the annual diocesan celebration of the Mass for Peace at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption. He noted that it was also the culmination of the diocesan month of praying for peace, which began on September 9, the feast of St. Peter Claver and the day the bishops of the United States had requested be a day of praying for peace in this country.

More than once in the Mass the bishop reminded the assembled congregation, “not that we are going to stop praying for peace.”

The bishop quoted a wise Chinese philosopher from the era before Christ, Lao-Tse, who said, “If there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace in the nations. If there is to be peace in the nations, there must be peace in the cities. If there is to be peace in the cities, there must be peace between neighbors. If there is to be peace between neighbors, there must be peace in the home. If there is to be peace in the home, there must be peace in the heart.”

The bishop then asked the congregation, “If we want peace, where do we start?” He noted that we often forget that we need to start with our own hearts. “If we begin with our hearts, it will spread to the whole world. Peace is contagious, goodness is contagious, but evil is also contagious. We’re all affected by one another.”

Bishop da Cunha then quoted Pope Francis, who has said on more than one occasion that peace does not arise from great international encounters: “[They] are not enough if nothing is done in the small things.”

The bishop reminded everyone that “in your little acts every day, if there is no peace in your heart, there will be no peace in the rest of the world.”

Without naming him, the bishop also quoted Nobel laureate Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said, “Do your little bit of good where you are.”

The bishop then noted that with the more than a thousand people who had participated in the Rosaries prayed on the way to the cathedral from St. Anne’s Shrine, as well as the Rosary prayed by the people waiting in the cathedral, many thousands of Hail Marys had been prayed for peace. He said that one might be thinking, “My Hail Marys were only a few.” But the bishop said that together there would be a big impact from the little actions of many people, all working towards the intention of peace.

Quoting St. Paul, “Let the peace of Christ reign in your hearts” (Col 3:15), the bishop asked, “Are we doing that? It is the most important gift that God want us to have. Every action for peace has to be aimed at the dignity and welfare of every person.”

After discussing the violence in Syria, Africa and our own country, the bishop referred to St. Teresa of Calcutta, who said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Our lack of understanding God’s plan that we be in relation with everyone, and that these relationships be based in His love, is what leads to the lack of peace in our world.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why,” Bishop da Cunha quoted from Mark Twain. The bishop then gave the answer we need for the second most important day — we are here to carry out the mission God gave us. The reason we have no peace is “because so many people have failed to listen to God’s plan” for themselves.

Blessed Paul VI taught that “if you want peace, work for justice.” Without justice there is no true peace.  Bishop da Cunha noted that peace comes about from having understanding, dialogue and respect for one another. In Portuguese he said, “If you want peace, do good, respect your neighbor.”

The bishop reminded everyone that we Christians are “ambassadors for peace. Don’t wait for peace to fall like a miracle from Heaven. It depends upon us,” but he also noted, “at times we forget that peace comes from God through our hearts.”

As this Year of Mercy is in its closing stretch, let us ask God, through the intercession of Our Lady of Peace, for the grace to be peacemakers, carrying out the missions God intended for us as individuals and as a community.

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