Sunday, November 8, 2009

Saints as peacemakers

The Feast of All Saints is celebrated to honor all the Christian saints, both known and unknown. In the Greek Orthodox Church the date is the Sunday after Pentecost while the Roman Catholic Church celebrates it November 1.
This feast captures the original meaning of who are the saints as reflected in the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Romans: “To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints…” For Paul all the baptized faithful are called to be saints or are already considered saints as he indicates at the start of his second letter to the Corinthians.
It is a welcome fact then that in the Philippines November 1 is when families gather together to remember and pray for their dead. After all, it is not only the canonized saints who are in heaven.
Yet for those who have remained faithful to the end, an even more hallow picture emerges with the sealing of the 144 thousand faithful (the number is meant to be symbolic) clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands; they have been washed by the blood of the lamb as the seventh chapter of the book of Revelation puts it. The picture is one of final victory for those who come out of the great tribulation by sharing in Christ’s Resurrection, and are now worshipping God unhindered. The book of Revelation was written during the empire-wide prosecution of Christians by Emperor Domitian, 81-96 A.D. It was written to affirm Christians in their faith.
In contemporary Filipino society, the Feast of All Saints is now preceded by Halloween, the evening of October 31. Halloween caters to the lure of the fear factor; after all, do not human beings pay others to scare them out of their wits? Some people consider this fun and it is good for commerce. But is this all there is to it?
Perhaps another way of evaluating Halloween is to contrast it with All Saints Day; is the consoling picture of the saints who lived the Beatitudes and who reign victorious with Christ compatible with the blood and gore of Halloween? Is this how we want the dead to be remembered?


Jesus speaks authoritatively in the Beatitudes. He literally “opened his mouth and taught them” (Mat 5:2). He is a Moses figure but goes beyond this revered leader. In other parts of the Sermon on the Mount (Mat 5-7) of which the Beatitudes are a part, he says he comes to fulfill the law (Mat 5: 17) and this fulfillment is his person: “You have heard the commandments…What I say to you is…” (vv. 21-22).
Peacemaking is the focus of v. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” This is the only time the noun “peacemaker” appears in the NT. This peacemaking is neither pacifism nor indifference but a state of being that leads to positive action that reconciles.
Psalm 13:14 describes peaceful action: “Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” James 3: 18 tells us that “the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” What sowing in peace means is indicated when he distinguishes between worldly and heavenly wisdom (vv. 13-17). A peacemaker also speaks out when the time is right: “He who winks at a fault causes trouble, but he who frankly reproves promotes peace” (Prov. 10:10).
Finally, a peacemaker is one who is inserted into the original peacemaker, Jesus Christ: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1: 19-20).


The bishops urge us to be peacemakers:

Finally, we ask everyone to follow the path of peace. This means the path of dialogue and openness…the path of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation…Together let us intensify the signs of hope regarding politics and peace that we observe such as…military groups participating in formation towards a culture of peace; lay organizations, faith communities, BEC’s, and NGO’s spreading the good news of principled politics and organizing themselves to reform our political culture; politicians who pursue reform..(CBCP 12 July 2009 statement on Lay Participation in Politics and Peace)

In the Archdiocese of Cebu, His Eminence, Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal, reiterates this call to be peacemakers in the area of principled politics. He distinguished between two efforts, one ensuring honest and credible elections; another ensuring honest and credible candidates. He calls upon the lay faithful to a participative role in the elections that go beyond poll-watching. It is by the lay people’s “own coherent faith, moral firmness, educated judgment, professional competence and passion for service” that they will know “whom to vote for, and whom to reject.”
Meanwhile a bottom-up mechanism to help form the practical consciences of voters is being adopted in Cebu and elsewhere. It opens the doors for answering these questions in a process that is deliberate, proactive, communal, and God-centered.
Saints are called to be peacemakers. While relying on the prayers of those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, we who are still engaged in the battle over hearts, minds, and souls, particularly in the area of evangelizing politics, are consoled that we shall be called children of God.

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