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Father Cantalamessa on the Peacemakers

12/25/2006 - 7:00 AM PST

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Delivers Advent Meditation in the Vatican

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the Advent sermon delivered Friday by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Pontifical Household preacher, in the presence of Benedict XVI and members of the Roman Curia in preparation for Christmas.

Preaching in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, Father Cantalamessa continued a series of meditations on the beatitudes.

* * *

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God"

1. The Holy Father's Message for the world day of peace

The beatitudes are not arranged according to a logical order. Except for the first one, which sets the tone for all the others, each one can be considered separately without its meaning being in the least compromised.

The Pope's message for the World Day of Peace has made me decide to dedicate our meeting today to the beatitude about the peacemakers and to postpone for another time my reflections on the third beatitude, the one about the meek. Let us hope that the message of peace, directed to the whole world, be above all accepted, meditated on, and bear fruit here among us, at the center of the Church.

This year message is for peace in all areas, from the more personal ambit to the more vast ones of politics, economy, ecology, and international organizations. These are different fields, but they are united by the fact that all have the human person as their primary object, as the title of the message indicates "The Human Person: Heart of Peace."

There is a fundamental affirmation in the message that is the interpretive key of the whole. The Holy Father says: "Peace is both gift and task. If it is true that peace between individuals and peoples -- the ability to live together and to build relationships of justice and solidarity -- calls for unfailing commitment on our part, it is also true, and indeed more so, that peace is a gift from God.

"Peace is an aspect of God's activity, made manifest both in the creation of an orderly and harmonious universe and also in the redemption of humanity that needs to be rescued from the disorder of sin. Creation and Redemption thus provide a key that helps us begin to understand the meaning of our life on earth."[1]

These words help us to understand the beatitude of the peacemakers and this beatitude, in turn, throws light on these words of the Pope's message. The nearness of Christmas sets a particular tone, a liturgical one, to our meditation. On Christmas night we will hear the words of the angelic hymn: "Peace on earth to men loved by the Lord." The meaning of these words is not may there be peace, but rather there is peace. "The birth of the Lord," St. Gregory the Great said, "is the birth of peace": Natalis Domini natalis est pacis.[2]

2. Who are the peacemakers?

The seventh beatitude says: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." Along with the beatitude about the merciful, this one does not speak so much about how we must "be" (poor, afflicted, meek, pure of heart) but about what we must "do." The Greek term "eirenopoioi" means those who work for peace, who "make peace." Not so much, however, in the sense of being reconciled with our enemies as in the sense of helping enemies to be reconciled with each other. "What we are dealing with here are people who so love peace that they have no fear of compromising their own personal peace when they intervene in conflicts to help those who are divided to find peace."[3]

Peacemakers are not synonymous, then, with the peaceful or pacific, that is, tranquil, calm persons who avoid contrariety as much as possible (they are proclaimed blessed by another beatitude, that of the meek); neither are peacemakers synonymous with pacifists, if by pacifists we mean those who are against war (with great frequency, against one of the two sides in a war!) but who do nothing to reconcile the combatants. The most just term is pacifier.

In New Testament times the rulers were called the peacemakers, above all the Roman Empire. Augustus Caesar put world peace as his top accomplishment, which he achieved through military victory (parta victoriis pax). He built the famous Ara pacis, the Altar of Peace, in Rome as a testament of his legacy.

Some have understood the Gospel beatitude to be intentionally opposed to this position and to have pointed to the true peacemakers are the true way in which peace is promoted: through victory, yes, but victory over themselves, not over their enemies, not by destroying the enemy, but by destroying enmity, as Jesus did on the cross (Ephesians 2:16).

Today, however, the prevalent view is that this beatitude must be read according to the Bible and the Jewish sources in which helping people in discord to reconcile and live in ...

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