Blessed Are the Peacemakers:
(Chapter 13: Transformation in Christ by Dietrich Van Hildebrand)
“It is a specific stigma of abysmal separation from God to maintain a quarrelsome and cantankerous attitude, a morbid delight in conflicts and bickering, a perverse pleasure derived from disharmony.”
This is certainly a danger for every devout Christian who aspires to live a holy life and actively acts on their “hunger for thirst” for justice through advocacy, testimony, and other good deeds. At once by simply being in proximity to others who do not hold these values you are an anathema to their comfort level and perhaps even seen as a hostile threat to their well-deserved position in life. Pope Francis today, for example, has tread on secular ground of immigration, environment, capitalism, healthcare, and dignity of life issues that have threatened the Catholic Churches coziness with western democracies.
At the same time he has threatened the comfort sanctuaries of many conservative Catholics with his embracing theology of love and mercy. Truly Christian living has a higher cost than many lay Catholics are willing to expand both personally and politically with policies that protect and value all human life. Should he have remained quiet on more controversial issues? Resoundingly no! However, I cannot detect in his words and deeds any sense of a quarrelsome and cantankerous attitude. Nor do I see him embracing discord or disharmony. Despite his popular appeal he is ensnared in controversy from within and without.
It is hard to see how we can effectively be “Peacemakers” in a secular world that increasingly rejects our beliefs, persecutes our church, and commits countless acts of physical injury and soul-damaging indecencies, often in the name of nationalism or even God’s name himself. And yet we are called to do so.
Where do we begin? Dietrich again has a manual for life in this chapter that immediately slaps those living in comfortable denial in the face (gently) and those prone to individual error a road map of human obstacles that thwart our spiritual progression in this area. Take this maxim:
“Those that are content in this world are the farthest from God.”
How could we be content living in a world that perpetuates and celebrates sin and avarice in many variations? How could we be content when within a stone’s throw of where our feet are planted in all probability is a human being suffering from some form of spiritual or human driven alienation?
Dietrich pounds at us with the challenge to recognize our “true metaphysical situation” and the radical change owing to the Redemption. However, it is only possible if we have the right response to the life and ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross to live our lives as he would live his life if he were here today.
Peacemaking starts with one’s interior attitude and works its way out. You cannot give what you do not have. What you do have cannot sustain personal injury and suffering if it is not well nourished and defended.
How do we bolster inner peace? Issue by issue Dietrich explores the venom of “hatred, vindictiveness, envy, and jealousy.” He delves into personal challenges of depression, anxiety, agitation, great excitement, fear, sorrow, and intense personal injury suffered unfairly by the acts of others. Who among us has not tasted the “leaden tinge of disharmony” resulting from personal tragedy.
The great secret of human suffering is unveiled in this chapter. Living a holy life will not remove me from experiencing pain, misery, humiliation and may even increase my share of this bitter reality. However, living a holy life can increase my inner peace when confronted with unwanted maladies of any size and transform them into opportunities to carry my cross in quiet acceptance of my divine providence:
Here is, in a word, resignation to God’s will – a thing impossible except as a response to the concept of the universe that is conveyed by to us by Christian Revelation. It does not dissolve suffering, but it transfigured suffering and removes from it that sting which threatens to destroy our inward peace.”
Aspiring to partner with God through living a prayer filled and contemplative life provides us with the necessary basis to confront evil, suffering, and tragedy within our own lives and the lives of others. As Dietrich says it, “Inner peace engenders outward concord.” And on being mentally prepared:
“A true warrior of Christ is firmly established in the Absolute. He conducts his actions sovereignly from an irremovable point of vantage, against which all poisoned arrows sent by his adversaries prove powerless.”
We may not recognize the greater mystery of this wisdom when we feel arrows have pierced our heart. The other day I had set up everything to power wash my roof. Ladders, hose, cleaner, and time. The power button failed to elicit any response. I was highly dissatisfied, but gave up for the day. That same night my wife noticed that our roof had a leak. If not for the broken power washer I can assuredly say I would have made that leak worse and been blamed for destroying our roof with a power washer! Sometimes a denied desire (to wash the damn roof) is a good thing even though we may never know why.
Dietrich finishes with our calling to not only live with internal peace but to also be peacemakers. He provides an example of St. Francis of Assisi resolving a conflict between two clergy while on his death-bed with two new strophes of Canticle of the Son.
We are called to not be passive in being peacemakers. But we are also called to not be quarrelsome and cantankerous!