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Blessed are the Peacemakers!

February 1, 2020

I took a Contemplative Walk back in May of 2014 as a part of a Men’s Contemplative Retreat at St Bernard’s Abbey in Cullman, Alabama. It is a reminder to me that we need a balance of contemplation and action as we live the life Christ calls us to live. Today’s readings challenge us to live our lives in a way that is sadly very different from the world and even the church. To live out the Beatitudes and Micah 6:8 require action that comes from a place of spiritual depth.

I have been contemplating these passages all week. Actually, they are a huge part of my own discernment process and way of ministry. For so many years as an Air Force Chaplain I saw both the beauty of peace and the ugliness when there is no peace. Ironically, my first Reserve assignment (the summer between my second and third year of seminary) was spent at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas. It was the home of Strategic Air Command’s (SAC) 7th Bomb Wing. They had fully-loaded B-52 Bombers and KC-135 Tankers on alert 24/7. That meant that the aircraft and crews were “on call” to respond immediately to the call to fly and bomb targets. In 1985, we were still in the midst of the Cold War and this was a new experience for this kid from Austin, Minnesota. Nuclear weapons and drills made the drills we used to have in school look like a sad joke. Trust me, gathering in a hallway or getting under your desk was not going to save anyone from a nuclear holocaust.

The ironic thing about SAC was it’s “motto.” Peace is our Profession was on every piece of letterhead and on the sign at the entrance to the base. How did we keep peace? By stockpiling enough nuclear weapons to match the Soviets bomb, missile, and bomber… sounds insane, doesn’t it. This was the world view which Thomas Merton, Daniel Berrigan, Dorothy Day, Philip Berrigan, and others worked to dismantle.

Blessed are the peacemakers… the peacemakers Jesus was talking about weren’t the military or government folks. He was talking about those who were willing to turn the world upside down. You see, in Jesus’s upside down economy, the poor were elevated and the rich were brought down from their golden thrones. Jesus was the one who said that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. It was Jesus who told Peter to put away his sword and healed the man who’s ear had been hacked off by Peter at Jesus’s arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Blessed are the peacemakers… when someone strikes you on your cheek, offer them the other… how many times should we forgive, Lord? Peter thought seven times was enough… no, try seventy times seven said Jesus. Do you see how opposite this is to what we often see today?

Justice equals retribution, vindictiveness, and getting even. Walking tall while carrying the biggest stick to threaten others is how too many treat people. Is this what the Lord requires? Is this what the church is supposed to be teaching (as the church arms itself to the teeth to “protect the American way”)? I think not.

What does the Lord require of you asked the Prophet Micah. To do justice… to love kindness and mercy… to walk humbly with God. There’s no room for threats and bullying here. There is only room for justice tempered by mercy. There is only room for love, kindness, forgiveness, and reconciliation. There is no room for ego or hubris because we are called to walk humbly with God and with one another.

Dear reader, this is the sort of peaceful profession I see as our calling. May God give us the strength and the persistence to do this! Do Justice! Love Mercy/Kindness! Walk Humbly with God and with one another!

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