Becoming Peacemakers in the Image of the Prince of Peace, Saturday of the 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (I), September 7 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Saturday of the 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Year I
Votive Mass of Our Lady, Queen of Peace
In Union with Pope Francis’ Call for Prayer and Fasting for Peace in Syria
September 7, 2013
Col 1:21-23, Ps 54, Lk 6:1-5

To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click here:

(The apparatus stopped recording, missing Pope Francis’ prayers to Our Lady of Peace and a story about the Statue of Our Lady, Queen of Peace, at St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome)

The following points were attempted in this homily:

  • Today we unite ourselves to Pope Francis and Catholics, Christians and people of good will across the world in praying for peace in Syria and in other war-torn areas of the world.
  • The Gospel helps us to see that sometimes people who know the Lord’s word very well miss the point. Jesus says that even though the Pharisees knew the passage of David and his soldiers’ eating the show-bread when they were at war and hungry, they missed the point, that God didn’t want his sons and daughters to starve. Likewise so many of us religious believers all have heard so many parts of Sacred Scripture so many times, from the story of Cain and Abel to the fifth commandment to Jesus’ own words and example, but we often miss the meaning and go on killing each other, when not only does Scripture forbid murder but emphasizes that we’re supposed to look on each other as brothers, not adversaries, and love them rather than hurt them.
  • To grasp the meaning of Sacred Scripture and what God is asking of us is key. In the first reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we see that Christ died on the Cross to reconcile us to God to present us as holy, without blemish and irreproachable before him, provided that we persevere in faith. Jesus died so that we could become saints. And one of the essentials for us to become a saint, as Jesus described for us at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, is that we become peacemakers, not peace-wishers. Peacemakers will be called children of God, he said. For us to live out our baptismal call, we have to be peacemakers, in our prayer, in our fasting, in our actions, in our reconciling ourselves to God, in our reconciling with others, in our seeking to bring about reconciliation among others. That’s an essential characteristic of being a Christian.
  • Today, Pope Francis is trying to help the world remember this essential message of God, by leading us all in prayer and fasting for this purpose. He said  on Sunday in his Angelus message, “With all my strength, I ask each party in this conflict to listen to the voice of their own conscience, not to close themselves in solely on their own interests, but rather to look at each other as brothers and decisively and courageously to follow the path of encounter and negotiation, and so overcome blind conflict.” He reminded us that God speaks to us in conscience, calling us to peace; that often we forget that the ones against whom we’re fighting are brothers, not enemies; that it takes courage to follow the path of peace, more courage than it takes to confront supposed adversaries on a battlefield; and that conflict blinds us to the big picture and so often others become anonymous combatants.
  • He goes on to say the type of involvement the United States and others in the international community need to focus on: to help the real “good guys,” the innocent, by providing humanitarian assistance, and not ceasing to try to bring about the situation where encounter and negotiation can happen.
  • “All men and women of good will,” he stressed, “are bound by the task of pursuing peace.” If we truly have good will, we will pursue peace. If we’re not genuinely pursuing peace, there is a problem in our will, there is a deafness to God’s voice in conscience and a blindness to seeing things as he sees them.
  • Pope Francis finishes his words turning to Mary as the Queen of Peace. At St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome, there’s a statue of Mary, Regina Pacis (Queen of Peace) that I’ve grown to love over the years. It was placed there by Pope Benedict XV a century ago during World War I. Mary is seated. With her right hand, she is embracing the baby Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who won peace for us on the Cross. He’s holding an olive branch in his hands, a symbol of the peace he wishes to give to the world if only the world will receive that gift and persevere in it. Mary’s left hand is raised above her head, sticking straight out like a police officer stopping traffic, in a gesture that screams with maternal love, “Stop!” Mary never ceases to intercede for us that we might stop killing each other, because she is the New Eve and the mother of the entire family. Just like a mother runs into a room and cries out stop when her children are fighting, so Mary does the same. Today we ask her to intercede for us that we might wrap our arms around her Son with our right hands and cry out, as any mother would, “No more war!” with our left hands.
  • We make our own Pope Francis’ prayer to Mary at the end of the Angelus address: “Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love. She is our mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her children! Help us, Mary, to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of encounter and peace. Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!”

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1
COL 1:21-23

Brothers and sisters:
You once were alienated and hostile in mind because of evil deeds;
God has now reconciled you
in the fleshly Body of Christ through his death,
to present you holy, without blemish,
and irreproachable before him,
provided that you persevere in the faith,
firmly grounded, stable,
and not shifting from the hope of the Gospel that you heard,
which has been preached to every creature under heaven,
of which I, Paul, am a minister.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 54:3-4, 6 AND 8

R. (6) God himself is my help.
O God, by your name save me,
and by your might defend my cause.
O God, hear my prayer;
hearken to the words of my mouth.
R. God himself is my help.
Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord sustains my life.
Freely will I offer you sacrifice;
I will praise your name, O LORD, for its goodness.
R. God himself is my help.

Gospel
LK 6:1-5

While Jesus was going through a field of grain on a sabbath,
his disciples were picking the heads of grain,
rubbing them in their hands, and eating them.
Some Pharisees said,
“Why are you doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Have you not read what David did
when he and those who were with him were hungry?
How he went into the house of God, took the bread of offering,
which only the priests could lawfully eat,
ate of it, and shared it with his companions?”
Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”