What Makes for Peace

APTOPIX Turkey Syria

If you only knew what makes for peace. (Luke 19:42)

One of the genuinely heartbreaking ironies of our time: “martyrdom” and hope.

Every two years we read at Holy Mass the accounts of the heroes of the Maccabean revolt. The fidelity of the Maccabean martyrs inspires us. But Mattathias, and the Zealots who imitated him, did not fully reveal the face of the Father. Open impiety and irreligion moved Mattathias to kill. But open impiety and irreligion moved Christ to submit to suffering.

We do not know what makes for peace. But Christ teaches us. Holding fast to “the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising not its shame.” (Hebrews 12:2)

“The joy set before Him.” The fulfillment for which we were made, the kingdom of true happiness–it cannot be anything less than God. Christ teaches us that this kingdom, this happiness is real. We can, should, and must hope for it.

“He endured the cross.” Christ and the martyrs of Christ do not do violence. They endure violence. The holy martyrs whose memory the Church keeps alive through all the vagaries of history–they counted the joy to come more precious than this passing pilgrim life. So they submitted themselves to an unjust death.

We can and do say that the martyrs have held the world “in contempt.” But a true martyr’s contempt for the world aims only at the falsity and emptiness of a shallow life. In no way does this contempt move a true martyr to acts of violence. To the contrary, a martyr patiently and calmly awaits the coming of the Lord, living a genuinely spiritual life in this world. He becomes a martyr only when violence finds him.

Syria Patriarch YounanNow, if we think that only jihadists make a mockery of the word martyr, then we deceive ourselves.

The Catholic Patriarch of Syria said yesterday: “It is inconceivable to think that [ISIS] can be defeated with air raids: this is a big lie.”

Practically every time we Western powers drop a bomb from the sky, over the land where our father Abraham once walked–every time we do that, we make real martyrs. Innocent bystanders, patiently waiting on God, meaning no harm to anyone, get killed. ISIS is a bunch of unbelievable bad guys, to be sure. And the people who drop bombs that incur “collateral damage” as a matter of course: Also bad guys.

Christ teaches what makes for peace. Staring calmly at death, not to bring it about, but to accept it. Because the joy set before us is greater.

4 thoughts on “What Makes for Peace

  1. Perhaps. But. some of us have wives and children and our vocation demands that we protect them. I shall not quote the catechism on just war or the examples of John of Austria or the secular heroes of the Reconquista. I suspect they’d fall on deaf ears.

    1. Keith, I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

      The Catechism stipulates that non-combatants must be treated humanely, that the tools of modern warfare must not be used indiscriminately against whole cities.

      Our bombing campaign would seem to violate those stipulations.

      Also, one of the just-war criteria is the reasonable prospect of success. We have been bombing for over a year now, and have not had success. I wrote, tying to apply the just-war criteria to President Obama’s war plan, last year: https://frmarkdwhite.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/quick-war-speech-dental-exam/.

  2. When Leaders and their peoples are mindful of their Baptismal Vows and strive to walk in humility before God, such ones can pick up the sword to wage a just war and prosecute it to absolute victory. The major problem in this country is our national leaders in particular and the people in general are NOT mindful or humble. Therefor how can we wield any weapon justly?

  3. The Holy priest is someone who reminds us of who we are. To be sure Christ Himself would tell us that we must love and pray for our enemies. It will only be through firmness of faith in the One, true God that this evil will be dispelled. These ideas may seem naive or soft but in fact requite thoughtful contemplation and great courage to exact in reality. ISIS is not a nation state, it has no governing body with whom to negotiate or coerce. It is a slowly growing evil that has penetrated the minds of vulnerable people and has filled them with a dangerous fervor. Children are being born and indoctrinated into these twisted ideals without the freedom to discern or choose another path, having known no other. And yet if we believe the words of Christ and why wouldn’t we, we know that God loves them as He loves me and wishes for them to be with Him in eternity as He does for me. We have not only the gift of living in a place of relative freedom and safety. We have the unbelievable privilege of living in a Christian country, one nation under God. To those whom much is given, much is to be expected. We would do well as a nation to remind the world we stand for Christ, that there is only one God and He wants all of His children to know Him.

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