In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, I wish to invite you, President Mahmoud Abbas, together with Israeli President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace. I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer. Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment. The men and women of these lands, and of the entire world, all of them, ask us to bring before God their fervent hopes for peace.-Pope Francis
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis is back in Rome. However, his presence in the Holy Land reverberates. One of the comments he made after he had presided at the Open Air Mass in Manger Square in Bethlehem on the second day of the visit is sending out shock waves around the world:
In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, I wish to invite you, President Mahmoud Abbas, together with Israeli President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace. I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer.
Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment. The men and women of these lands, and of the entire world, all of them, ask us to bring before God their fervent hopes for peace.
Both leaders have accepted the invitation to visit with Francis in Rome for this time of prayer for peace. Many in the Media discount the possibilities of such an encounter. Still others see it as a nice, sentimental gesture. I don't share their assessment.
I see it as a prophetic act of a Christian being led by the Holy Spirit, a Pope who knows the power of God.
Francis knows the real power of real prayer. It is time for such prayer to begin to be raised from the faithful throughout the whole world.The kind of prayer that can change history.
On the way back to Rome, Francis was asked about the invitation he gave to the two world leaders by journalists on the plane. He responded:
The most authentic gestures are those that we don't think about, those that come to us, aren't they? I thought about suggesting it during the trip, but there were many logistical problems, because each one has to consider the territory, and it's not easy.
So I thought about a meeting, and at the end, I came up with this invitation. It will be an encounter to pray, not for the purposes of mediation. We will pray with the two presidents; prayer is important, it helps. Afterwards, each person will return home. There would be a rabbi, a Muslim, and myself.
I remember what occurred as a result of his call for a day of global prayer back on September 7, 2013. The whole world was invited to undertake the urgent task of praying for peace, in Syria, the extended Middle East, and around the world.
In a heartfelt cry the Pope used his Sunday Angelus address of September 1, 2013, to implore the parties engaged in the atrocities in Syria to cease, crying out with prophetic voice, "War begets war, violence begets violence."
He announced to the faithful that on Saturday, September 7, 2013, he would lead a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East and throughout the world.
The horrors inflicted against the innocent in Syria had filled our media. Francis was well aware of the growing calls for a military response.
So, he invited us to employ the most powerful action a Christian can engage in, real prayer.
The circumstances surrounding the impending violence significantly changed.
While US warships had already been deployed to the Red Sea in the event of military action taken against Syria - and the US Congress prepared to debate authorizing the use of such force - the leader of over 1.2 billion Catholics asked Catholics and all other Christians, other people of faith and all people of good will, to deploy the weapons of peace, prayer and fasting.
Now, he calls us all to pray for the Peace of Jerusalem, by praying for peace in the Middle East. I am not naive. I am well aware of the history of continual violence, strife and war in the Holy Land. However, I also know the power of God.
History records that a brutal dictator named Joseph Stalin once mockingly asked "How many divisions does the Pope of Rome have?"
Well, the truth is there is no more powerful force in the universe than the power of God and His power is made manifest when His people pray!
So, once again, Francis is calling out the heavy artillery of real prayer. We need to respond to the call.
This Pope carries in his heart a burden for peace in the Middle East. So does the Lord whom he serves with such simplicity and sincerity.
So should we.
The words of the Psalmist David invite our response in this hour - Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May they prosper who love you! (Psalm 122:6)
Pope Francis hopes to unleash the most powerful weapon we have against the growing scourge of violence in the land where the Prince of Peace walked- the the Love of God.
The love of God is the only source and means to authentic peace, in us as individuals, in our families, in the Church, in our Nation-states and in this global community to which we are joined.
In a world which is spiraling out of control, we who bear the name Christian are particularly called to live the Love of God - and become instruments of true peace.
At the Last Supper, right before he walked the Way of the Cross for each one of us, Jesus spoke these words to his disciples: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid". (John 14:27)
We need to hear these words in that place which the Bible calls the heart. The path to peace passes through prayer. His entire time with the disciples was an instruction in Prayer.
He showed them the pattern of living in a continual communion with the Father. He invited them - and he invites us - into the communion of love which He has with the Father, in the Spirit.
This is an invitation into a whole new way of living, a life of continual communion with the living God.
We also need to hear these words of Jesus, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Mt. 5:9)
Are we sons and daughters of God? Do we believe that the path to peace passes through prayer?
It is time to begin praying, RIGHT NOW, for the peace of Jerusalem. We need to pray for this visit in Rome to occur and bear fruit. We need to pray for the intervention of heaven in the land where Jesus walked - in the land where he still walks - because He is has been raised!
Let us take the words which Pope Francis spoke to President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres as our invitation to enter into a season of focused prayer for peace in the Middle East.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May they prosper who love you! (Psalm 122:6)
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