Homily for the Holy Hour for Peace in the Holy Land

We have come together tonight to pray for peace. And it’s good that we do that.  We echo in our hearts tonight the sentiment of Our Lord who offered us peace, as we just heard, during the Last Supper, just before his death and resurrection.  The fact that peace was on our Savior’s mind and heart during his last gathering with the Apostles shows us how important peace is and how seriously we ought to take it.

It’s instructive to me that Jesus offers a peace “not as the world gives.” The peace that Jesus offers is peace not based on the absence of conflict, peace not achieved through mutually assured destruction, peace not even reached through complex negotiation. This is a peace based on mercy, a peace based on unity – for which our Savior prayed later in John’s Gospel, just before his death: a peace based on our identity as children of God.

This is a peace that is freely offered, but must also be freely accepted.  It’s a peace that, as the song says, must “begin with me.”  Violence only begets more violence.  Hate only begets more hate.  And all of it is exacerbated by indifference and apathy, which causes violence and hate to boil over.  We have to actively pursue peace by working for justice.  We have to pursue peace by rooting out all hatred and indifference from our own hearts, from our own lives.  True peace will never happen unless we can do that.

Peace, too, comes from hearing the voices that speak of peace.  We don’t hear about peace in the news or from talk shows and podcasts.  We hear about peace only when we come to our God in moments of prayer, in reading of Scripture, in praying the Rosary, in devotion to God in company with the angels and saints.  We have to feed our souls with the right food, and not get caught up in the hatred that is engendered by hearing the wrong voices.  Peace – true peace – is only spoken by our God.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter where the conflict shows itself.  Whether it’s Russia and Ukraine, or Israel and Palestine, or even right here in our own community, the beginning of the end of that conflict starts with us.  We have to be people who seek reconciliation for past hurts, who forgive from the heart as our Lord begs us to do in the Gospels, who live the love that we have received from our Lord as freely as he gives it to us.  We cannot let conflict be the only voice that is heard at this hour; people have to hear the peace in our hearts, our words of pardon and forgiveness, the story of God’s mercy, our Savior’s offer of true peace.

Tonight, we are making a step forward in seeking lasting peace.  Prayer is powerful – of that we are certain – and prayer guides our efforts for justice and reconciliation and healing.  Prayer also gives us the call and the grace to make peace begin with me.

May God grant us true and lasting peace.  May God have mercy on all of us.