Making 2022 a More Peaceful Year

Dear Folks,The Christmas season has just begun, and today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, and also St. Stephen (Holy Family takes precedence over St. Stephen, but I’m sure he doesn’t mind). The Story of Christmas includes the story of Herod and all the nastiness that he did, so even our season of joy has a reminder that there is great evil in the world and forces that seek to stamp out the light. The story of St. Stephen, the first martyr, reminds us that the Gospel sometimes faces a harsh response. Family often includes conflict, and it has a special poignancy because these are people so special to us. God made us all to be one family, a family united by His peace and love. I want to start out this year returning to a theme that I have touched on before, but I believe that it is worth reemphasizing.There has been so much violence in the news. I’m so tired of hearing about violence, whether it is with a knife, gun, vehicle, fists, it is horrifying that there is so much. Various things have been proposed, and I do believe that law enforcement is essential, but it won’t solve the ultimate problem. We must become a more peaceful people from the inside out. In John 17:20-23, Jesus prays that all may be one, and says that if we are, that will help people believe in the Gospel. We can’t control others, but we can look at our own behavior, and see how we can get closer to the Christian ideal. We remember what the Scriptures teach. “Bless those who curse you; bless and do not curse them (Romans 12:14).” “Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).”Does this mean being passive in the face of malice? Doormats to bullies? I say no, emphatically no. It does mean trying to respond in a way that has a chance of making the situation better. My whole life’s experience tells me that good intentions are not enough, that we must learn peacemaking as an art. I have found books to be helpful. “Remembering God’s Mercy” by Dawn Eden is about healing painful memories (especially childhood memories), and we must begin to heal if we are to be healers. “No Future Without Forgiveness” by Desmond Tutu is an inspiring call to forgiveness. “The Book of Forgiving” by Desmond and Mpho Tutu, “Don’t Forgive Too Soon” by Matthew Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Dennis Linn give practical thoughts on the process of forgiveness. “Verbal Judo” by George Thompson is about de-escalating conflict. “Love Your Enemy” by Arthur C. Brooks is about dialog with those with whom we disagree, and how such people can be gift. “God Help Me, These People are Driving Me Nuts!” By Gregory Popcak talks about seeking win-win solutions rather than working against each other. If you will only read one book from my list, I would encourage “Redeeming Conflict” by Ann Garrido. It is twelve habits (virtues) that transform conflict into a spiritual journey, and I believe would make it more productive. I again emphasize that I don’t speak as one who has mastered this. I have come a long way from where I used to be, but I can see that I have a ways to go.We cannot do it by our own power. We must begin by opening ourselves to Jesus. It is by His transforming power that we became able to love and forgive our enemies and bless those who curse us. If we want a better world, the first step is always falling more deeply in love with Jesus. There’s no better way to start our year.Blessings,Fr. Jim

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