June 2, 2014
The invitation of Pope Francis came after the recitation of the Regina Coeli following the celebration of Mass in Manger Square, Bethlehem, on the morning of Sunday May 25, 2014. On this occasion Pope Francis said: “I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer. In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace I wish to invite you, President Mahmoud Abbas, together with President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace. All of us want peace.”
A remarkable, heart-felt invitation from our Holy Father to the Presidents of Palestine and Israel respectively, to come together and pray for peace. A very true statement: “All of us want peace.”
Easy words to say, aren’t they? One of my favorite movies, “Miss Congeniality” highlights this in a great scene. All of the contestants for the Miss United States pageant in the movie use the same answer for their interview segment…what is your dream for the world? “World peace.” The crowd applauds and everyone “awww…”s and yet no one puts forth even one idea how to get started.
How to make world peace a reality, how to even take just the first baby steps toward that reality, is beyond our imagining. But our Holy Father has made a first step. He has opened the doors to his home to these two Presidents, appealing to them not to talk about what to do to create peace, but to spend time together in prayer for peace.
We could all use this idea I think. I remember teaching a class on the Sacrament of Reconciliation to parents whose children were preparing for their first confession. We started talking about forgiveness, and somehow we ended up in a discussion about grudges: parents were sharing that they hadn’t spoken to siblings, to parents, to cousins in years because of a long ago argument. When asked what they could do about it, they argued it was the fault of the other person, or what was done to them was so horrible they could not ever forgive. I asked one simple question: How will your child ever believe that God will forgive them, when they witness you not able to forgive your own family member? How can you teach your child peace in their heart, when they see turmoil in the family?
It has to start somewhere. The song that echoes in my head right now is an old one with a familiar line, “Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment, now…”
On June 8th, the Holy Father will be praying for peace, and I think we should, too.
Start with a baby step. Offer your nightly prayer for peace in our world, peace in our community, peace in your family. Say a rosary or use your scripture study time to explore what God has told us about peace and how to maintain it. Pray for those who persecute you: those people you cannot stand to be around, those who have wronged you in your life, or those whom you have wronged. Even more active, make a phone call or send a note to someone that you last spoke to in anger and make amends. It doesn’t matter whose fault it was or who started it; what our moms told us when we were young is true: what matters is who ends it. Who apologizes, who makes peace.
Our Holy Father has taken the first step, and so should we. Not only by truly praying for peace, but for making peace within ourselves and with those that we long ago pushed away.
All of us want peace.