‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’
One of my most favourite saints – Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati – was once participating in a Catholic procession through the streets of Turin, when he spotted a woman on the side of the street hurling hostile remarks against the Church. There were others, too, but Pier Giorgio approached her because she was the loudest of them all. Instead of retaliating with angry words, he took a piece of paper from his pocket which was already loaded with countless names and addresses – people he visited so he could be of help and assistance to them – and added her name to the list also. The woman was stunned into silence by this gesture.
I have huge admiration for Pier Giorgio’s response here. How easy is it to retaliate in anger when we feel we have been wronged – or also, like him, when we hear hostile remarks directed against the Church, against the Pro-Life movement, or against anything dear to us? Instead of responding with anger or hate, Pier Giorgio responded with love. St. John-Paul II didn’t describe him as ‘a Man of the Beatitudes’ for nothing. Among countless other amazing qualities, he was a peacemaker – and the above story bears incredible testimony to that. Neither was his response somehow ‘soft’ or lacking in moral fibre; his response took real guts.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Mt 5:9). This is the seventh Beatitude.
What exactly are peacemakers? The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible describes them as ‘those who sow peace in the world.’ In one sense, this means making every possible effort to live at peace with others (which as all of us know, can be immensely challenging!). This was the meaning I was most familiar with; Yet, there is a much weightier one, namely that the greatest way of sowing peace is sharing the Gospel with others, so that in reconciling with God they may live in the peace of Christ. Jesus is the great ‘Prince of Peace’ (Is 9:5). Nothing can possibly surpass the peace He brings to our hearts – a peace hard-won through the blood of His Cross; incredible self-sacrifice which reconciled all humanity to God. Earthly peace – including living peaceably with others – is described by the Catechism as ‘the image and fruit of the peace of Christ’ (CCC #2305). All true peace flows from Him.
How do we become peacemakers? First and foremost, since Jesus is the source of true peace, we begin by striving to root ourselves entirely in Him; being a true peacemaker flows entirely from this. Pier Giorgio couldn’t have done what he did above without pouring his heart into his relationship with Jesus; living a beautifully sacramental life which flowed into concrete acts of charity and service in the world around him. He was transformed by the immense power of grace rippling through his soul.
Yet becoming entirely rooted in Christ is a process. As we journey towards this, we are bound to experience inner turbulence. It might feel like a wrestling match sometimes – between the part of you that wants what it wants (nothing quite like Lent and the sight of a glorious chocolate cake to evoke this in me!), and your spirit which strives to remain faithful to God’s will, to the promises you have made to Him. Even St. Paul alludes to great internal battle in his Letter to the Romans: ‘For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do’ (Rom 7:20). Journeying to true peace can be a major struggle. Why? Because it means rooting out all sin from your life – even the tiny and seemingly inconsequential ones. We cannot expect that all will be nice and calm while we engage in this process! Yet we trust in that process all the same; we trust in God and His grace at work in us.
St. Seraphim of Sarov once said, “Acquire interior peace and a multitude will find its salvation through you.” Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Yet, Fr. Jacques Philippe clarifies an important point for us: St. Seraphim had to put in a great deal of effort to acquire his interior peace: it took years of constant conversion and incessant prayer! Oh yes, we would preferably like interior peace delivered to us on a lovely platter, but we have to trust that God’s way is best. A caterpillar has to struggle before it becomes a beautiful butterfly decked out with wings.
One of my favourite worship songs – ‘In the hands of the Potter’ by Casting Crowns – speaks into this:
‘My world is spinning, my life seems so out of control
Nailed scarred hands tell the story
Of love that will never let go of me
Through the sunshine or rain, I know where my hope is found
What You started in me I know You will complete from the inside out.’
There’s another excellent one: ‘And now the enemy is afraid of what you’re making me.’ Of course there’s going to be battle in this case; he’s not going to like it and will do all he can to derail you. Isn’t it a great thought, though, that your progress in virtue and holiness could frighten him?! 😊
Final question: Why are peacemakers blessed? Because ‘they will be called sons of God’. Through our Baptism, of course, we are already God’s children. Yet, this divine sonship is also a promise or hope of a future reality: ‘…we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies’ (Rom 8:23). One day, our identity as God’s children will be definitively shown by the glorification of our bodies, their reunion with our souls at the end of time. God’s children also have the promise of eternal glory written on their hearts. Yes, there will be battle and internal strife, but ultimately it will be worth it: ‘He who conquers shall have this heritage and I shall be his God and he shall be my son’ (Rev 21:7).
Grant us the courage to strive for true peace in Christ,
And to persevere in the fight,
Till we are united for ever with You in heaven!
We ask this through Christ our Lord,