Winning the Peace
The story of David in the First Reading today is part of an exciting adventure story that is well worth reading in full if you have time this week. In the Bible there is little or no emotion included in the text. Allow yourself to put your own emotions into the story as you read it: indignation, anger, frustration, amazement & finally, perhaps, you come to feel like Abishai in today’s text: ‘Today God has put your enemy in your power; so now let me pin him to the ground with his own spear. Just one stroke! I will not need to strike him twice.’
In simplistic terms it seems as though removing one person is justified and will not cause much problem in society: just one man (after all, that’s what the Jewish Elders said about Jesus). However, King Saul is part of a family; who has loyal followers. Killing him would solve one problem and cause new problems of bitterness, revenge, etc.
When David says: “we cannot destroy the Lord’s anointed,” he’s also saying: “now that we have shown our power, we will not win peace by destroying him.”
Both Abraham Lincoln, after the Civil War in America, and Winston Churchill, after World War II, stressed the need to “win the peace” now that we have “won the war.”
As I continue my journey around Australia as a “social butterfly”, I’m able to observe people’s responses and actions with a relaxed and non-defensive attitude. It seems that many of us are carrying some injustice or frustrations in our lives, even among my own Oblate Brothers.
Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI shared one time that our early adult life (up to 30/35) is about succeeding and producing “things” to establish our sense of dignity and self-worth. After that, he said, we continue our journey of meaningful lives by helping the younger generations to succeed: as John the Baptist said: “I must decrease, He must increase.”
But how can we be concerned about and promote others, to the extent of self-giving/ self-sacrifice, if we are carrying bitterness or a desire for revenge? It seems to me, the great challenge in our older adult lives, is to learn how to “win the peace” in our families, communities and, finally, between nations.
I saw a Teacher Magazine headline reporting bullying Principals and stressed teachers. In the paper: a building contractor threatened the sacking of man requesting compassionate leave to attend his father-in-law’s funeral. We are all aware of the large number of families breaking down. We see the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine: how can it end?
Although Jesus says: “love your enemies”, this is very difficult to do.
That’s why I like emphasising the expression: “winning the peace” which is the practical result of loving your enemy, and which emphasises the benefit to ourselves.
It’s clear, many of us live in communities and families where we are struggling to find peace. Today’s readings give us a way forward that is not easy, but will definitely work. I share the following story to illustrate this command of Jesus (the experience of French woman, Irène Laure, who attended the Caux conference [on World War II reconciliation] in 1947):
She had been in the Resistance when the Germans occupied her country during World War II. Her son had been tortured, her comrades executed. At the end of the war she had wanted Germany wiped from the face of the earth. She became a Member of Parliament and leader of the Socialist women. She was invited to the Swiss conference and was horrified to find Germans there. She was challenged with the question: How can you rebuild Europe without the Germans? She retired to her room and for several days and nights thought about whether she would give up her hatred for the sake of the new Europe. When she came out, she asked if she could speak. She did so. She turned to the Germans in the hall and said, “Please forgive me for my hatred.” A German woman came up from the hall and took her hand. Irène said it felt like 100 kilos being lifted from her shoulders. She went to Germany and repeated her apology, and everywhere she went Germans were willing, as a result, to face up to their past for the first time. In hatred, Laure came to believe, there were always the seeds of a future war. She would have identified with Semyon Frank’s words: “No bombs, not even atomic bombs, none of the cruelties of war cause so much destruction of the normal conditions of life, or are the cause of so much ruin and evil, as the spirit of hatred.” —Michael Henderson, “Forgiveness: A dilemma of democracy,” The Way, January 2004, Michaelhenderson.org.uk.
Although the commands of Jesus Christ are not always easy,
we need to keep reminding ourselves that, in the end, we ourselves will be better off:
“Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.” – we all make mistakes.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves;” – we all make mistakes.
“Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves;” – we all make mistakes.
“Grant pardon, and you will be pardoned.” – we all make mistakes.
“Give, and there will be gifts for you…” – generosity overcomes many of our mistakes.
I wish you well in our battles to “win the peace” and discover new joy in your lives.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI