We continue today the outlines of Christian morality that is the Beatitudes. Today Christ shows the uselessness of violence. He asks us to be peaceful within so as to spread peace in the world. Lets confess any ways we have failed to be people of peace..
There’s a fine scene in the film Ghandi. He refuses to fight back when the British beat up his people. He wants to work peacefully to break the occupation. A western Christian friend of his who was advising him, said “stop this passive resistance, it makes no sense”. “Ah”, says Ghandi, “but what does your Christ say, turn the other cheek”. “Yes”, the Christian replied, “but we don’t take that literally”. Ghandi lived the gospel better than his so-called Christian advisor and his way succeeded, avoiding bloodshed. Again when fighting broke out between Hindus and Moslems after independence, Ghandi went on hunger strike to stop the bloodshed. He said he’d not eat until they stopped fighting and they did; his witness healed the violence in people’s hearts.
Jesus asks the same witness of us in the Sermon. He says violence begets more violence. We must break the vicious circle. He said to Peter: “he who lives by the sword dies by the sword”. The way of the sword has meant endless wars between peoples from the year dot. Christ challenges us, his new redeemed people, to a better way. He points out that the only way we can change things is by not returning evil for evil. By retaliating viciously we become as bad as those we oppose. We should stop the vicious cycle, turn people’s hearts to peace by example. This sure way is for all, not just Christians. It has been proved again and again in our modern world, from the anti-Vietnam war activists to those of the Arab spring and human rights marches in Northern Ireland.
Jesus tells us to break the cycle of violence by returning good for evil. For peace begins in each of our hearts and in our general approach to others. Going the extra mile; lending without interest, forgiving our enemies, avoiding revenge which embitters the soul; all these defuse conflict. These ways involve some inconvenience or pain but they break the cruel warring way of Satan. Christ preached and lived the way of peace, on the cross he not only rejected violence but forgave those crucifying him.
And this illustrates another key part of the Sermon, that of loving our enemies, doing good to those who hate us, praying for those who persecute us. In this we’re asked to be children of an all-forgiving God. His sun shines on wicked and perfidious non-believers as well as the just. His loving forgiveness must be the norm if perpetual war is to cease. What should distinguish the Christian from the pagan is warm-hearted unconditional peace and love. For this is the way in which we discover our true identity and become perfect like our heavenly Father is perfect. For the things of this world and its violent selfish values pass and leave the soul empty at last. And if we die with hating unforgiving hearts we may live like that for all eternity. But if we follow the way of Christ will be free within at death we will have achieved peaceful, gracious and free living here, and we will be one with the Prince of peace at last forever and ever, amen. So as Christ’s people, members of his new kingdom, living that generous love and peace that makes us children of God, we make our profession of faith..
Prayers of the faithful
and As the people of God, gathered here in his presence with us as eternal lord of love, we ask for the grace we need to be his peaceful and just lights to the world..
For our Holy Father and all leaders of the church, that they may be lights of peace, of non-violent ways of resolving conflicts, to the various areas of war in our present world.
For our own country torn recently by war and violence in the North, that our civil leaders may continue the path of peace and reconciliation and all of us may help in the healing process…
For ourselves, in homes, communities and work places may we not harbor grudges but forgive family or community members who hurt us and reach out hands of love to all, especially our children..
For the sick the old the lonely and the oppressed that though our help and care they may know the love and care of God..
For the dead, that any grudges and hatreds they harbored in this life may be absolved by our prayers; may we hasten them to the heaven where all are one in peace, love and happiness..
And we ask these prayers through the all loving Christ who prayed for his enemies on the cross and heals all our divisions, amen.
The Sermon on the Mount is summed up in the last phrase: be ye perfect as your heavenly Father. This is our aspiration, even as persistent weaknesses dog us through life as fallen human beings. But we’re also redeemed in Christ and can achieve amazing degree of perfection by his grace, as the saints proved. But we will never be paragons; even the saints had faults. Indeed, its in humbly recognizing our frailty that we see our need for God. Even Paul mentions a sting in the flesh that kept him humble. But we mustn’t settle for mediocre Christianity all the same. We must keep up a heroic effort to transcend our sins, to get up when we fall, to maintain our best intentions. But in seeking to be as good as possible we leave the greater part to God. Where our frail efforts fall short, his grace compensates through the church’s sacramental and communal support, prayer, guidance and communion with the risen Lord. That’s why we need the church, we can’t do it on our own. May Mary help us in this life-long struggle within the church’s bosom to be saintly lights to the world, with the immense rewards that entails..Hail Mary.