One of my favorite songs from my Mass Days was the song of Francis of Assisi Make me an Instrument of Peace. The lyrics are profound,
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console,
not so much to be understood as to understand,
not so much to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying that we awake to eternal life.
It was sung in a light airy way, but the older I get the more I realize that peace is not that light airy feeling. It is not necessarily the absence of conflict that I seemed to think, or sometimes pursue. Francis knew that for every unsettled angst, there needed to be something else that needed to be sown. It is easy to think of peace as not engaging in the discussion or the fight, not throwing fuel on the fire, but sometimes that is more pacifiying the situation than being a peacemaker.
I was thinking how with one of my kids we used a pacifier to soothe him. It was a great tool to help calm him down, especially in public when we needed to buy a little more time. The pacifier did just that, it bought a little more time. The issue that caused my child’s discomfort was still there and still needed to be dealt with. The pacificier helped the situation to seem peaceful for a short time, but eventually there was a diaper that needed to be changed, or a meal that needed to be served… the pacifier could never actually satisfy.
That image got me thinking about how so many of us want to pacify a situation rather than make peace. We want everyone to just get along, or to just do things our way. Or we do something someone else’s way so we don’t have to deal with their emotional outbursts, or pouting, or whatever, but really we are very far from peace.
Peacemaking is actually hard work. It is an active stance of planting good where there is hard, it is seeking another’s highest good even at our own inconvenience. Pacifying gives the appearance of peace, but real peace must be cultivated and tended to. Real peace is something we must intentionally pursue. It may come at a deep cost, but Jesus also promises that it comes with a deep reward, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) So may we put on the shoes of peace and intentionally seek the peace of the cities, communities, and families we are part of for the highest good of others and ourselves, and to grow into our truest identity as children of God.