Violent peace

Photo: Jerusalem Photo: Jerusalem

The loving war of Jesus

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.” (Matthew 10:34)

Recently I had the opportunity to travel to the land where Jesus was born. A group of bishops and I spent a few days in Israel in fervent prayer for peace and intense dialogue for unity. We met with different civil and religious entities in that small and turbulent region of the world that the wisdom of God chose to teach us that the only peace that lasts is the peace that arises as a result of Jesus’ loving war.

It was very painful to feel the tension and the latent fear of war outbreaks all over the country. How ironic it is to see so much violence in the place where Jesus was born, where Peace was born, where our peace was born.

The life and message of Jesus are the lethal sword that establishes true peace. The sword that Jesus waves before the eyes of our heart is the divine sword of forgiveness. “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Authentic and permanent forgiveness does not arise as a result of self-discipline; it springs only as a result of a transformation of the heart, and that can only be achieved through God. Only God’s divine presence can make us discover another human being as a brother or sister; only his divine wisdom can make us see the slow learning process of that other individual, who has made mistakes and has hurt us with his or her actions.

Blessed Pope Paul VI coined the phrase “If you want peace, work for justice,” and St. John Paul II added: “If you want justice, work for forgiveness.”

Working for forgiveness means recognizing our mistakes by asking our God and Savior to make us grieve from the evil we have caused to those around us. At the same time, working for forgiveness means to implore God for inner healing that can free us from the vengeance and jealous, animal impulse that is crouching in our soul, always ready to attack.

Human justice seeks only the restitution and equity of the parties; divine justice always seeks the salvation of the righteous; Christian justice seeks salvation even for the guilty aggressor. “To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well.” (Luke 6:29)

That new justice revealed by our Lord Jesus Christ with his life and teachings is what originates in our hearts an inner violent peace, greater than any other sword and any other war. That internal violence alters our existence in such a way that it requires a total reconstruction of ourselves in order to live. Only then we find authentic peace.

Blessed violence

“The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force.” (Matthew 11:12) The men and women that we believers consider saints are those who have been wounded by the divine double-edged sword. For all the saints, that inner blessed violence does not manifest itself against others but has given them strength to fight their own sinful miseries; to them that violence has given the courage and strength to unmask personal and communitarian infidelities; that violence has given them the bold courage to confess their faith in any adversity, even when risking their own lives. This is how they have found true peace and complete freedom.

Today in Israel, as in many other parts of the world and in our own surroundings, God continues to wound with his loving sword countless believers who suffer from the violence of his kingdom. Archbishop Oscar Romero, Father Stanley Rother and many other anonymous saints advocating for peace have suffered the paradox of physical violence in imitation of our supreme model Jesus.

A sword of pain pierced the heart of Mary, the mother of all believers in this war of love: “And you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:35)

Let love keep us violently faithful in this beautiful fight.

Read the Spanish version of this column.

Northwest Catholic - June 2018

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo

Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., is auxiliary bishop of Seattle and vicar for Hispanic ministry.

Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., es obispo auxiliar de Seattle y vicario para el ministerio hispano.