How did you feel when you heard the report that Ukrainian forces had sunk the Russian battleship, Makarov?
My immediate response was YES! Then I heard a journalist reporting that though it’s easy to make jokes given the history of that battleship, “Still, there were 500 sailors on board and many of them are now underwater.” It was an important reminder.
Like many of us, I was raised on good guys and bad guys, cops and robbers, heroes who saved the day with “POW” and “BAM.” Characters who brought peace and justice through violence.
Now, I believe that in Europe right now Russia is a violent aggressor. And I believe that Ukrainians have a right to protect their homeland. And I believe that it is incumbent upon us to support them. But I am also reminded that “War is Hell” and always to be mourned.
In today’s gospel Jesus tells his followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” The peace that Christ gives is more than the cessation of violence, but a world where all share in the gifts of our Creator. It is an interior peace that grounds us in the knowledge that we are held in God’s hands and sustains us in the hard work for justice.
What can we do? Certainly, we can pray for peace at the international level. We can support political leaders who understand that the long-term effects of climate change makes large areas of the world unlivable and plants the seeds for violence. We can work at the local and national level to dismantle the structures of greed and racism which make human thriving difficult and peace impossible.
And we can remember the important truth that peace on earth begins with each of us. We can build bridges of dialogue with those with whom we disagree. We can speak our truth without being hurtful and belittling.
Today’s first reading tells us about an early controversy in the Christian community. And how staying with the conversation, dialog, and listening led to a resolution. Imagine how different Christianity would look today if Paul and those early Gentile converts had simply taken their marbles and gone home!