Praying for peace, working for justice in our hearts

“If you want peace, work for justice.” These words of Pope Paul VI were quoted by Bishop Edgar da Cunha at the annual Mass for Peace, celebrated on Columbus Day evening at St. Anne’s Church in Fall River. The bishop stressed that achieving peace is not something that can just be wished for and then acquired. He said, “I have never met a person who does not like peace. The problem is that people don’t know where to find it.”

The evening’s Mass was that of Our Lady of Peace and the bishop spoke of her as the epitome of a peaceful and peace-filled person. “Peace can only come when we open our hearts, our minds to allow the gift of peace that comes from the Lord, as it did in the life of Mary. We will have peace when we all, like Mary, take the Word of God into our hearts. When we accept God’s Word, God’s challenge, then we will have peace.”

For that to happen, we need to convert, the bishop stressed repeatedly.  We need to change from focusing on ourselves to focusing on the common good. Like Mary, “we need to say to ourselves, to our brothers and sisters and to the world, ‘I am the servant of the Lord.’”

Quoting again from Pope Paul VI (in the 1965 encyclical, “Mense Maio,” “On prayers during May for Preservation of Peace”), Bishop da Cunha said, “Peace comes from Heaven. It will truly reign among men when we have finally proved ourselves worthy to receive this gift from Almighty God.” The bishop then added, “When we are living in peace, when we are filled with peace, then it will catch on, it will continue spreading.”

The bishop then made an allusion to the current panic about Ebola and said, “We’re all afraid of contagious viruses, but maybe we can contaminate each other with the virus of peace. Peace and harmony are gifts of God that we must all pray for and work for everyday.”

In Portuguese the bishop said that that evening’s peace procession and Mass were a “sign of our desire to be constructors of a more peaceful world.” He then spoke again about the conflict between our individual desires and the common good, and yet when a child is born, “you worry more for your child than for yourself. This is a gift of peace, this motherly generosity.” The bishop then reminded the congregation that we need to have that attitude of generosity towards all people. Unfortunately, paraphrasing the “Our Father,” our attitude is often “my will be done,” not God’s will. 

The bishop then recalled seeing the sign carried by one of the groups in the procession (which you can see on page one of this Anchor), where St. Francis of Assisi is quoted, “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.” He then asked, “Am I ready, am I available to be an instrument of peace?”

The bishop warned, “Peace will not come if we do nothing. We won’t find it if we’re not finding it inside of ourselves.” He reminded everyone earlier that they will not be able to have that inner peace if they are being exploitative, abusive or corrupt. Instead they need to learn the Lord’s justice, which always demands solidarity amongst people.

The bishop quoted Psalm 119:165; “Great peace have they who love Your law, O Lord.” In other words, we will not find peace without following God’s law.

Today (Friday) we celebrate St. Ignatius of Antioch. He wrote, “Take heed often to come together to give thanks to God and show forth His praise. For when you assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith. Nothing is more precious than peace, by which all war, in Heaven and earth, is brought to an end.”

Bishop da Cunha thanked the hundreds of people, together with their pastors, who gathered Monday night to pray together for peace, walking the streets of Fall River and then filling St. Anne’s Church. May the readers of The Anchor, wherever they are, join with them in praying for this intention, including within that prayer openness to the Holy Spirit, Who will point out to us those areas in our own lives where we need to change, where we need to allow God’s will (and not our own) to be done, so that Christ’s peace might be contagious in our world. As the Archangel Gabriel said to Mary, “Nothing will be impossible for God.”

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts