The article below is second in a series from friars and Partners in Ministry (PIMs) from the province and the JPIC directorate who are sharing reflections on Franciscan peacemaking. Their observations are based on experiences as well as on how an aspect of history speaks to them.
As a member of the Body of Christ, it is my call to embody peace; and as a professed Secular Franciscan, the call is even stronger. Being a peacemaker in this day and age can seem naïve, and even idealistic, yet the call is even greater today. I have two very strong reminders and models of peace: Jesus and Francis. Both are embodied in the symbol of the Tau cross I wear every day and have worn every day since being received into the Secular Franciscans eight years ago.
What exactly am I reminded of? Jesus said to his friends, “My peace I leave with you; not the peace that the world gives, but my peace.” What an awesome gift! The world is inundated with gadgets that take the place of community,devices that replace the need for relationships, and a self-absorbed attitude that makes peace seem passé. The peace that Jesus promised is a peace of community, of relationships, of human contact. We as a society have lost the sense of “being human. ” We have become a society of automatons and unless we are wired, connected, or charged up, we cannot function properly.
Jesus and Francis were about relationships. Yes, they both took the time to be alone with God, but that time away only strengthened the time with their brethren. And when they came together, they were truly with them – they saw all as being truly human, graced and loved by God. Because we are in our own spaces, our own little worlds, we have begun to see others as objects and not as human beings. We see what we have to do as more important than seeing the other as other. We rarely take the time to “be with,” unless an occasion calls for it. Even then, it is rote, forced or hurried. We have forgotten about the dignity and humanness of the other.
We live in a culture where we take so many things for granted – especially our right to worship. People don’t even make eye contact anymore. It is very difficult to see Christ in our brothers and sisters when we won’t even look at them. Being peace means being able to make eye contact, especially to the outcast and those who are on the margins of society. Jesus looked at folks and asked transformational questions — questions that changed their lives.
Thomas Merton once said, “If you are yourself at peace, then there is at least some peace in the world. Then share your peace with everyone, and everyone will be at peace.” Folks can take many things from me, but one thing I won’t give up is my sense of peace. Peace begins with me. It is my gift from Jesus, and I plan on keeping it! Jesus was about transforming lives through human contact, contact of the senses – he touched, he saw, he listened, and he asked.
Spreading Peace in Challenging Times
Since we live in turbulent, warring times, it is so easy to give in to the warring hearts, or worse, to give up. Both Jesus and Francis lived in turbulent times. But they never let their circumstances rob them of their peace. They both remembered the source of their peace. They both knew it was something that no one could take from them. And they both embodied that peace – becoming so a part of them that they radiated peace wherever they went. And peace is contagious; though we tend to quarantine those who even speak of it.
Francis said to preach the Gospel at all times, using words when necessary. In my work for peace and social justice, I don’t say much. Folks have iPods or cell phones in their ears anyway. I strive for the embodiment of peace, as Jesus and Francis had. And that speaks volumes.
As a Secular Franciscan, every day I pray to be an instrument of God’s peace. I pray to pardon, console and understand first. I pray to see all as loving and divinely created beings. I pray to embody peace, one day at a time. This is a journey – a journey of faith; a journey where all the answers are not known; a journey of trusting that the Prince of Peace will prevail. This is my prayer for you — that you never give up on the journey, until you know nothing other than peace. And may the Lord give you his peace .
Carolyn Townes is an animator for St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York.