Friday, July 20, 2018
There is an essential difference between conflict and violence. Conflict is a given in our lives – we can use it to hone our thinking and being, or we can turn it to harm. Violence, on the other hand, is of its nature hostile and destructive of others. Our world is full of violence – people to people, people to animals and animals to people. The end product of violence is death – not always physical death, but death in some way. We inflict violence on others even when we don’t know we are acting in a hostile way. Let me tell a story, by way of illustration.
One late spring day, several years ago, I was on retreat at the Benedictine Monastery near Elmira. The monks raised sheep to earn a living. On this late afternoon, I was sitting on a bench overlooking a field of sheep and very young lambs, being playful after supper. From behind me, I heard a "whoosh." I knew the sound and that a hot air balloon was overhead – a beautiful gold and white balloon, brilliant against a vivid blue sky, filled with people obviously enjoying the ride.
The pilot lowered the balloon until the basket skimmed over the field, just above the lambs and sheep. The harassment – for that is what it was – caused the animals to run, bleat pitiably, flee from an unknown assailant, panic, and trample over each other. It is documented that sheep can die of fright.
I don’t think for a moment that the pilot was deliberately malicious. He was unthinking, daring, out to give his passengers their money’s worth. But, he did violence to these innocent creatures.
The peacemaker does no violence in word or deed.
Paul learned that truth from the eyewitnesses who walked with Jesus. Jesus is the peace between us, the apostle writes in the section of Ephesians we read today. Peace-making and peace-valuing were true and apparent in Jesus’ life. No one, not even His enemies, suffered violence from Him in word or action.
“Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus proclaimed in his beatitudes, “for they shall be called the children of God.”
While he did no violence to anyone, violence took away Jesus’ life. Yet, in keeping with who He had been all his life, Jesus’ first words to his disciples in the upper room after His resurrection were “Peace to you.”
This summer, in our play, travels, picnic conversations, and hot air balloon rides, let us do no violence to anyone or any living creature. The entire Church – you, me, everyone – is entrusted with peace-making.
~Sister Joan Sobala