Homily for Peace Sunday 16 January 2022. Terry Madden

Posted on 27th January, 2022

Homily Peace Sunday

16 January 2022 at SVP


What is it about the Russians that scares us so? Why are we so wary of them and they of us? Why are we like enemies all the time?

They are intelligent people: look at their art, look at their architecture before the Stalinist Regime that robbed them of their freedom. Their art and science is as great as ours, maybe greater – artists like Ivan Shishkin, Andrei Rublev, the musicians like Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, authors like Tolstoy and Chekov, all prove their worthiness to be our friends. We like their vodka and caviar, some love their Kalashnikov, we admire their cosmonauts and their scientists all as capable as anyone we can present.

So why have they become our pet hate? 

Maybe, dare I suggest, because they want the same as us? They seek to be recognised and appreciated. They want to have their say and their seat in the power houses of the world.

In fact, they want what we want: We want the same power, the same hegemony, the same recognition. Such desires drove us to leave Europe, where people dared to expect us to toe the line and be equal to them with only an equal voice, not a stronger one. Where there is even a court of justice that can over-rule our own courts: how terrible?

What is true for Russia is true for us. What is true for us is true for North Korea, for South Sudan, for Tigray. What is true at the national and international levels is also too often true at the personal level.  Think of the last fight you had at home, in the house – what was it over? Was it: “Do we do it my way or your way?”  What happens at home in the house, happens on the big international stage. Pride rules, fear rules, jealousy rules. The EGO rules. There’s not much difference in the motivation, only in the consequences.

Wouldn’t it be so much better if we could accept the precepts of St. Paul. He sees all the gifts – the charisms – of the community. Each member has his or her special gift which is to be used for the good of the whole community: one preaches, another has faith, another speaks in tongues, another prophesies. One is wealthy economically; another is wealthy artistically… St. Paul tells us to pool our resources, our gifts and use them for the good of the community. Our gifts come from God and are for the good of all. If we allow pride or fear or jealousy to overcome our relationships, what’s the use of these gifts? Unless they are used for the good of all, they get us nowhere. It’s true on a personal level, as it’s true on an international level.

Pope Francis uses a wonderful phrase in his letter to introduce this year’s world Day of Peace. He writes: “In every age, peace is both a gift from on high and the fruit of a shared commitment.” The fruit of a shared commitment. It’s true, we have to commit ourselves to peace. Like everything else we value or really desire, we have to be committed to procuring it and we have to be prepared to makes sacrifices to achieve it.

Frank Shovlin, on my invitation, wrote on the front page of the newsletter this week. He reminds us of the sacrifices that had to be made to achieve peace between the belligerent sides of the divide in Northern Ireland. Everyone was tired of the violence, the disruption to social life, the anger and the pain of death. They wanted peace. “The Good Friday Agreement of 1998, writes Frank, was a document of compromise in which everyone gave up some of their ground in order for the process to move forward”. Everyone gave up some of their ground in order for the process to move forward. Now, some 24 years later, peace still holds, despite the problems that are always there. This is because everyone gave up something that was important so that the others could feel that they had been listened to and their situation appreciated and taken into account.

Pope Francis writes in his letter: “All can work together to build a more peaceful world, starting from the hearts of individuals and relationships in the family, then within society and with the environment, and all the way up to relationships between peoples and nations”.

He writes further that 3 elements are necessary for the achievement of lasting peace:  the first is dialogue between generations as the basis for the realization of shared projects.

Pope Francis writes “Young people need the wisdom and experience of the elderly while those who are older need the support, affection, creativity and dynamism of the young. Great social challenges and peace processes necessarily call for dialogue between the keepers of memory – the elderly – and those who move history forward - the young”

His second element is education, as a factor of freedom, responsibility and development. He gives a special role in this to places of education for “education provides the grammar for dialogue between generations”. Yet resources devoted to education have been squeezed all around the world, while arms budgets have burgeoned. Pope Francis makes an urgent call for “economic policies aimed at inverting the proportion of public funds spent on education and on weaponry” and the pursuit of genuine international disarmament to free up the funds needed “for health care, schools, infrastructure, care of the land and so forth.”

The 3rd element is labour as a means for the full realization of human dignity.

These are three indispensable elements for “making possible the creation of a social covenant”,[4] without which every project of peace turns out to be insubstantial.

Pope Francis ends his letter and I will finish now with these words: “I make this appeal: let us walk together with courage and creativity on the path of intergenerational dialogue, education, and work. May more and more men and women strive daily, with quiet humility and courage, to be artisans of peace. And may they be ever inspired and accompanied by the blessings of the God of peace!”


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