Sister Doreen’s Reflections
This year the week of prayer for world peace was from Sunday October 15 to Sunday October 22, and it has been an opportunity for reflection on our global world community and our need for peace.
Joan Chittister in her book “For Everything a Season” made a comment that jolted me into thought, she wrote “We are too much enslaved to ourselves to be at peace.” She went on to say “I realized we could not have peace until we each cultivated within ourselves a child with open arms. We could not have peace until we all sat down at the table of life intent on nourishing one another together. And I realized we are, in fact, doing just the opposite.”
It is the lack of peace within ourselves that is the root cause for conflict. The contest between a world of me and a world of we, an understanding of life as a conflict between us and them. How important it is for us to take the time for reflection, for silence and thoughtfulness. It is in the silence and the solitude, when I come face to face with myself and the inner disquiet and conflicts within me, that I meet this same contest that is the prevailing winds of our culture. It is there that I know that I am being given the opportunity, the gift, to stay with myself and to slowly become good friends with this inner disquiet and conflict, that the way out of it all is to go in and through it. It was Blaise Pascal who wrote “The unhappiness of a person resides in one thing, to be unable to remain peacefully in a room.” If we want a time for peace, it is this opportunity for hard inner work that we are being given en route to becoming a person of peace and compassion. It is deep down inside us where we find the hopes and fears, where we have the opportunity to struggle to control them, the hope to set them free. When we have met both the best and the worst in ourselves and found them acceptable, we meet peace.
Joan Chittister goes on to say, “Peace comes when we know that there is something that the Spirit has to teach us in everything we do, in everything we experience. When we are rejected, we learn that there is a love above all loves in life. When we are afraid, we come to know that there are those who will take care of us whatever the cost to themselves. When we are lonely, we learn that there is a rich and vibrant world inside of us waiting to be explored if we will only make the effort. When we are threatened by difference, we come to realize that the gift of the other is grace in disguise meant to broaden the narrowness that conflicts our souls. Then peace comes, then quiet sets in; then there is nothing that anyone can do to us that can destroy our equilibrium, upset our inner balance. What is, is, that’s true. But what is, we come to see, is that God’s world is good in all its dimensions. When I finnaly plumb my own depths, take the measure of myself, find the world within me that is spirit and light and truth, what is outside of me can never destroy my centered self.”
This reflection on peace is very counter-cultural. A prayer often used at Evensong here at the Convent points out the paradoxical relationship between war, unrest, hatred, and peace:
Lord God, remove fear, prejudice and hatred from the hearts of all people, for these are the things that make for war. Replace them with trust, understanding and compassion, which are the things that make for peace. We ask in the name of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The internation prayer for peace that has been used during the week is:
Lead me from death to life, from falsehood to truth
Lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust
Lead me from hate to love, from war to peace
Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe
Both prayers mirror the same paradoxical quest for peace.
In 1974 George Macleod founder of the Iona Community was one of the faith leaders who signed a A Call To Prayer and at that time they beieved that God was calling the world to pray with new purpose and deeper understanding for peace and justice among all people. They “called for patience so that we could learn from past errors and be open to fresh insights which the unprecedented modern situation demands.” These words could have been written today, and this weeks theme has been “pray with hope” for the peace that our world is so lacking – not just for this week but for the year, for all time.
Our world seems made up of a culture of conquest – my wants, my rage, my fear and threat of differences. We see this on an individual scene and on a global scene. Fear, prejudice, and hatred seem so out of control today. Wars, poverty, homelessness, food insecurity and a planet suffering from greed and lack of respect.
Into this we hear the words of Jesus as he was preparing to leave the disciples … “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) What we have been given is a peace that we are not used to receiving: it is a peace that doesn’t leave us abandoned. It doesn’t leave us bereft, unloved, deprived. These are very real emotions alive in the culture and world in which we live. Unresolved they give rise to a world that is full of tension and un-peace. Real peace is the assurance that God is always with us, that everything that happens is an opportunity to find God in the midst.
“My peace I give unto you. It’s a peace that the world cannot give. It’s a peace that the world cannot understand. Peace to know, peace to live. My peace I give unto you.” We sing this at the end of evensong some days at the Convent.
Jane Goodall is quoted as saying, “We all seem to have unreachable ideals, but if we don’t give up we shall eventually make our dreams come true.” This, it seems to me, is a good mantra or whisper to place in our heart.
I share an old song, still so new today!
“Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let There Be Peace on Earth
The peace that was meant to be
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With ev’ry step I take
Let this be my solemn vow
To take each moment and live
Each moment in peace eternally
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me”
Songwriters: Jill Jackson / Sy Miller
Let There Be Peace on Earth lyrics © Music Copyright Consultant Grp