Recently, the world’s most famous Jesuit offered a message from Rome in anticipation of the church’s world day of peace celebration on January 1. In it he reminds us: “Fraternity is an essential human quality, for we are relational beings. A lively awareness of our relatedness helps us to look upon and to treat each person as a true sister or brother; without fraternity it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace.” What a lovely antidote to the Ayn Rand philosophy that so dominates the Republican Party of today.
But there’s another Jesuit who comes to mind as we begin 2014. Nobel Peace Prize nominee John Dear, S.J. has devoted decades of his life to preaching about peace and non-violence. He’s more than just a talker and writer too. He has been arrested multiple times in peaceful, non-violent demonstrations. His actions and his never-ceasing writings and talks on peace and non-violence remain a true beacon of hope as we turn the calendars to a new month and year.
In his newest book, “The Nonviolent Life” Dear suggests that the life of nonviolence requires three simultaneous attributes: being non-violent toward ourselves; being nonviolent to all people, all creatures, and all creation; and joining the global grassroots movement of nonviolence. The book is a great read for those looking for a way to cocoon as January’s cold encompasses most of us. But as we leave 2013, we remember Dear’s words from another of his many great works:
The life of peace is both an inner journey toward a disarmed heart and a public journey toward a disarmed world. This difficult but beautiful journey gives infinite meaning and fulfillment to life itself because our lives become a gift for the whole human race. With peace as the beginning, middle and end of life, life makes sense.
Once we realize that our God is a God of peace, that we are created to dwell in God’s own peace here and now, that we can know deep peace within our own hearts, and that we can contribute to the peace of the world, then we will turn around and start that journey of peace and stay with it for the rest of our lives.
We will struggle with our inner violence and seek inner serenity through prayer and meditation, and at the same time, we will struggle with the world’s violence and act publicly for a world of peace and justice. We will pursue nonviolence in every facet of our lives–in our hearts, among our friends and families, in our workplace and communities, in our nation and internationally.
We will strive to end the wars in our own hearts and in the world itself through persistent reconciliation, healing love, and steadfast nonviolence.
The life of peace is a difficult balancing act between the inner work and the public work, a high wire trapeze walk that requires calm, patient, step-by-step mindfulness toward our goal. But the journey is thrilling and the arrival at the end of the line brings joy and good cheer to everyone, on earth and in heaven.
Whether we serve the poor in a spirit of peace like Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa, or resist systemic injustice like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr., or teach the wisdom of nonviolence like Mohandas Gandhi and Thomas Merton, we too can undertake this beautiful life of peace. We need not change the whole world like these great heroes, only join the journey. That is all that the God of peace asks.
If we try, and keep trying, and stay faithful to the journey unto our last breath, we will find great joy and a peace not of this world, knowing that we serve not only the human family, but the God of peace. Nothing could be more beautiful than living peace.
A challenge to all of us as we embark on 2014.