Before the Cross | Peace is both a gift and task

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson

The first words Christ spoke to his Apostles after He rose from the dead were: "Peace be with you" (John 20:19). What He gave as a gift after His Resurrection, He left as a task after His Ascension: the Apostles, with the help of the Holy Spirit, were to communicate Christ's peace to others. Therefore, as the Holy Father points out, "Peace is both gift and task."

How can peace be both gift and task at the same time? A simple analogy can help us understand.

Our teeth were given to us without our consent. They are a gift, a built-in part of our human nature. Under normal circumstances, they will simply grow in on their own. But those same teeth, which we initially received as a gift, cannot be maintained in good health without our cooperation. If we do not take their maintenance as a task, then what was initially given to us as a gift can decay and rot, becoming a source of great pain! If that happens, then good dental health can only be restored through drastic, sometimes painful, and inevitably costly measures.

The same is true of the moral blueprint of the universe, and the peace that is the fruit of living according to its logic. It is given to us as a gift and a task.

As a gift, the moral blueprint for peace has been written by God into human nature. In the Incarnation of the Son, the seed of peace has been planted in human history. In the giving of the Holy Spirit, the energy for peace is constantly renewed.

But these gifts, which provide the foundation for building a culture of peace, are also given to us as a task. If we do not cultivate the gifts then our relationships -- with God and each other, with our inmost selves and with the world -- will rot and decay, and become for us a source of great pain. Then, as we know all too well, peace can only be restored through drastic and costly measures, if at all.

In 2002, the Lord spoke to my heart: "So many desire peace, but few are willing to pray for peace." In giving me this word, the Lord gave me a vision and a goal: to help the world come to peace through the power of prayer.

I believe that the only way we are going to get peace is if we turn to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, and ask Him for it. That is why, along with Father Luis Mesa, I founded the Messengers of Peace -- a religious order in Colombia dedicated to 1) praying for peace, in Colombia and in the World, before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and 2) working to serve the poor.

If we desire peace we must be willing to work for it. And if we are willing to work for peace, that means we must be willing, first and foremost, to pray for peace. In the words of Pope John Paul II, "To pray is to enter into the action of God upon history: He, the sovereign actor of history, has wished to make people His collaborators."

Accordingly, the Messengers of Peace begin and end the day in prayer for peace. During the day, members of the community, a handful of people, serve the poor -- children, adults and the elderly. As Blessed John Paul II said, while peace is a gift, man is never dispensed from responsibility for seeking it and endeavoring to establish it by individual and community effort, throughout history. God's gift of peace is therefore also at all times a human conquest and achievement, since it is offered to us in order that we may accept it freely and put it progressively into operation by our creative will.

I invite all who read these words to become messengers of peace for the Third Millennium -- not only in the great and heroic acts that make headlines, but in the many small and mostly unnoticed acts that make up the fabric of daily living.

After all, the Lord Jesus Himself said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" (Matthew 5: 9).

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