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  • Fr. Bryan

Blessed are the Peacemakers

At the sermon on the mount, Jesus taught, “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” In times of conflict, it is the very disciples of Jesus who are to make peace. Peacemakers are needed right now, and you and I are called to be peacemakers. We should look to the scriptures for some hints on how to do this.

One parable of Jesus has been on my mind. Jesus says, “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’”

Of course, it is the hated tax collector who is identified as the just one in the story. It is the sinful tax collector who is raised up as an example to the disciples of Jesus because of his humility. He is the one that they are told to imitate in their prayer.

As you have probably noticed, many people - even many people in the Church - are acting like the Pharisee in the story. All you need to do is look at Twitter to see that many have an attitude that sounds like the Pharisee. Some say, “I’m happy I’m not like all these redneck, anti-science, murderous Trumpers.” Others say, “I’m happy I’m not like these sheeple who can’t think for themselves and let’s go Brandon.”

“I’m happy I’m not like my enemies,” is not an attitude one can hold and be a peacemaker. So I’m going to say this, and it might be tough for you to hear. When it comes to the challenging political and religious issues of the day, you’re wrong about something. You might not be wrong about everything, but you are wrong about something and that is enough that you should be very hesitant to act smug in the face of these complex issues.

Here is another truth that is going to be tough to accept: Your enemies are right about something, even if they seem like complete heretics. At the core, heretics are always right about something. What feeds heresy is not what is false about a belief, but what is true.

We become heretics when we look at a truth so closely, that we can’t see anything else including other truths. The Arian heretics believed the truth that Jesus was fully human, and they believed It so strongly that they couldn’t see he was also divine. The Docetists were the opposite. They believed the truth of Jesus’ divinity, and couldn’t see the truth that Jesus was also fully human.

So, as awful as it may seem, whatever idea is at the core of your heretic-enemy’s way of life is probably something true that you need to incorporate into your own philosophy of life. Heresies often come in pairs, and it has always been the Church’s job to make peace by acknowledging the truths espoused by competing factions.

Similarly, do not act like you are more informed than anyone else on these issues. You aren’t perfectly informed. No mainstream news outlet at this present moment exists to tell you the truth. They are there to keep you watching, and one way they do that is to make your enemies look like fools. That plays on pride which is very, very deeply embedded inside the human person. We love to feel morally superior to others, and the news exists to feed that sense of superiority and to reinforce your attitude that you are not like the rest of humanity. It exists to make you feel like you are one of the good guys. The media loves to report on conflict, and isn’t afraid to stir conflict up for its own benefit.

It is not easy to be a peacemaker. It requires humility and courage and it takes time. Being a peacemaker will not make you immediately well-liked by either side of a conflict. On the contrary, it often means that you are disliked by both, simply a cowardly moderate. But the middle ground does lead to peace if, for nobody else, for the peacemaker and others who desire to be peacemakers. So to be a peacemaker, acknowledge your sins before God in prayer, so his life in you can increase.

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