Today, the second Sunday of Ordinary Time, is Peace Sunday — a day the Catholic Church sets aside for prayer and work for peace, a supplement, as it were, to the Church’s World Day of Prayer for Peace celebrated each year on 1 January. This year’s theme, set by Pax Christi, is ‘Peace as a Journey of Hope: Dialogue, Reconciliation and Ecological Conversion’ which echoes that of day two of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. If that sounds a little fuzzy and vague to you, it is brought into sharp focus by today’s hope for peace talks to end Libya’s civil war. As yet, no one knows whether they will actually take place, still less is anyone prepared to guess whether they will be successful (see this report from the BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-51161758). But the prospect of peace means more than a nice warm glow about good intentions; for the people of Libya it is a matter of life and death, a stark choice which, for some alas, is no choice at all because it will be made for them by those who have a vested interest in ‘winning’.
St Benedict has a lot to say about peace in his Rule, but never sees it in terms of winning or losing. It is, rather, the context in which a community flourishes. Peace is to be our quest and aim (cf RB Prol 17) because it gives life. The image above is a variation on the Benedictine pax logo which I designed for a friend’s stole. The thorns that simultaneously bar the way to peace and protect it are made of barbed wire — one of the ugliest inventions of modern times with which we are all too familiar. They are a reminder of the contradictions frequently inherent in our prayer and work for peace, and the fact that these are embroidered on a priest’s stole is also a reminder, to me at least, of the price paid by the Prince of Peace who broke down, in his own body, the hostility between us and made us one (cf Ephesians 2.14).
With that in mind, a question to ask ourselves this morning might be: what barriers to peace and unity have we erected in the mistaken belief that we were protecting something precious? Are we peace-makers — or destroyers?