Fr. David’s homily September 25, 2016
The Search for Peace in Our Time
Last week our Holy Father, Pope Francis, visited Assisi, the birthplace and home of St. Francis. He went there to join with other religious leaders to pray for peace. In the light of events around the world, in our own country, close to home in Charlotte, just yesterday in Seattle, it is worthwhile to hear from our Holy Father reminding us of peace. It is also worthwhile in this heated political moment, to reflect on his wisdom as we struggle to form our voting consciences as citizens in the light of issues that confront us. I do this as we come together here to celebrate the meal of peace, the Eucharist, and to carry with us as we leave one or another way in which each of us might be more of an instrument of peace.
“We are all pilgrims in search of peace,” says Pope Francis. “We carry within us and place before God the hopes and sorrows of many persons and peoples. We thirst for peace. We desire to witness to peace. And above all, we need to pray for peace,
because peace is God’s gift, and it lies with us to plead for it, embrace it, and build it every day with God’s help. God asks this of us, calling us to confront the great sickness of our time: indifference. Indifference is a virus that paralyzes, rendering us lethargic and insensitive, a disease that eats away at the very heart of religious fervor, giving rise to a new and deeply sad paganism: the paganism of indifference.”
And, I might add, isn’t this the sin of the rich man in today’s gospel? He didn’t even notice the beggar, Lazarus. He got use to seeing him and ignoring him. He stepped over him on his way to the temple to pray. And even when he was dead the rich man wanted to use Lazarus to warn his brothers. In life and death he was indifferent. But how can we remain indifferent? Today the world has a profound thirst for peace. In many countries, people are suffering due to wars which are always the cause of suffering and poverty. A few months ago Pope Francis visited the Greek island of Lesbos, an island not far from Turkey which refugees fled fleeing war and homelessness. Francis saw the sorrow of war in the eyes of the refugees. He called it “the anguish of peoples thirsting for peace.” Families, whose lives were shattered; children who have known only violence in their lives; the elderly, forced to leave their homeland. All of them with a great thirst for peace.
Francis says that we do not want these tragedies to be forgotten. Rather together we want to give voice to all those who suffer, to all those who have no voice and are not heard. “They know well, often better than the powerful,” he said, “that there is no tomorrow in war, and that the violence of weapons destroys the joy of life.” “We do not have weapons,” Francis says, “we believe, however, in the meek and humble strength of prayer. The thirst for peace is a prayer to God, that wars, terrorism and violence may end.” “The peace which we invoke from Assisi,” he went on to say, “is not simply a protest against war, nor is it a result of negotiations, political compromises or economic bargaining. It is the result of prayer. We seek in God, who is the source of communion, the clear waters of peace for which humanity thirsts. These waters do not flow from the deserts of pride and personal interests, from the dry earth of profit at any cost and the arms trade.” And make no mistake about it, my fellow Christians, whoever uses religion to foment violence contradicts religion’s deepest and truest inspiration. “The name of God cannot be used to justify violence. Peace alone, and not war, is holy!”
What can we do? Prayer and concrete acts of cooperation help us to break free and reject the rebellious attitudes of those who know only how to protest and be angry. Prayer and the desire to work together are directed towards a true peace that is not illusory. Peace is not the calm of one who avoids difficulties and turns away, if his or her personal interests are not at risk. It is not the cynicism of one who washes his or her hands of any problem that is not one’s own. Peace is not closing your eyes to the needs of your brothers and sisters, and dirtying your hands for those in need.
What for you? What for me? Do you have a peaceful soul? Do I? In your household, how do you speak to one another? How do you heal conflicts in your relationships, with your children, your partner, your colleagues?
In concluding his speech, our Holy Father said: “Peace is a thread of hope that unites earth to heaven. It is a word so simple and difficult at the same time. Peace means forgiveness, the fruit of conversion and prayer that is born from within and that, in God’s name, makes it possible to heal old wounds. Peace means welcome, openness to dialogue, the overcoming of closed-mindedness, which is not a strategy for safety, but rather a bridge over an empty space. Peace means cooperation, a concrete and active exchange with another, who is a gift and not a problem, a brother or sister with whom to build a better world. Our future consists in living together. Believers should be artisans of peace in their prayers to God and in their actions for humanity!”
Finally, as we prepare to elect leaders this coming November, both locally and nationally, may we choose men and women who look beyond their particular interest and those of the moment. May they not remain deaf to God’s appeal to their consciences, to the cry of the poor for peace and to the common good. Pope Francis concludes his message: “Let us reaffirm today our ‘yes’ to being, together, builders of the peace that God wishes for us and for which humanity thirsts.”
David J. McBriar, O.F.M.
Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”