Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Peace & Justice - Fr Damian Feeney

This homily was given by Fr Damian Feeney at a Votive Mass for Peace & Justice.

I’m told by one who should know that the American Theologian Stanley Hauerwas once said that the reason he was a pacifist was because it was the only thing which stopped him from kicking the whatsits out of certain people. (I’m paraphrasing slightly. Hauerwas is a Texan, with all the colourful language that this implies). As we ponder what it might mean to be people of peace, it’s an interesting starting point. Are we, as human beings, so conditioned to violence – whether through survival instincts or for other reasons – that to live non-violently is to go against the grain of the nature of the species?

Tonight Jesus tells us – among other things – of the importance of being peacemakers: and if we are such we will be blessed, and be called children of God. It’s not something we can claim in isolation, however: alongside this we must also be poor in spirit, mourners for the state of our being, meek, hungering for righteousness to the point of being persecuted, merciful and pure in heart, if we would live as people who are truly citizens of the kingdom.

Anyone familiar with the politically incorrect film ‘Miss Congeniality’ (Sandra Bullock in an unlikely tale as an FBI Agent who must infiltrate a Beauty Contest in order to protect the other entrants from a fiendish plot) will be aware of the mantra so often trotted out on such occasions – the desire of each contestant for world peace. The Beatitudes teach us that unless we are prepared to lay everything down and labour of peace and justice to the fullest extent of our context and capability, then such words are too precious to be otherwise devalued. Not all of us can bring about world peace – but we might start with the longings of our own hearts. A couple of days after 9/11, a colleague of mine went into a thoroughly vandalised Comprehensive School in Blackburn to do an assembly. Tearing up his script, he reminded them that there was no use being shocked about 9/11 if we live lives which cause damage and violence to the places where we live and work. It’s all a question of scale and context, but the sin is fundamentally the same.
Given our own context, we are called to live as citizens of heaven here and now – to work for peace, to labour of justice. This is true whether we are engaged in the work of the United Nations, or whether we are dealing with a disagreement in this community. The standard of the Beatitudes stands before us in either case.

Finally, tonight, rejoicing in the H1N1 de-regulation which means we can once again exchange the peace with one another, we should be mindful that in this action we are not only reconciled to one another and to God, but to and with all people. If this is not so, we should leave our gift at the altar and deal with whatever stands in our path. As Gerald Schlabach puts it, this Mass is
‘…an offer of life, a promise of hospitality to strangers, a sharing of peace, a tasting of God’s generosity, a breaking that opens space for healing.’

May this sharing of this Mass open our eyes to the generous and non-violent love of God, and to the need for God’s eucharistic people to live and labour for a eucharistic peace.