Archbishop's Message

Shepherd's Voice July 2022 BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS


We are living in the midst of a protracted war between Russia and Ukraine which doesn’t seem to find its end – and already the two nations have paid a very high price in human lives lost, destruction of infrastructure and environment and economic regress. We know the hardships our young students in Ukraine were put to and how their future has been jeopardized by the war. Ultimately, for whose benefit is the war and in what way does it help humanity to be more civilized?
Can these words from Prophet Isaiah help the world leaders to open their eyes to put this mindless destruction behind and embark on a new course of action that will ensure a better quality of life to all human beings and set the world on the path to true progress?
“He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Is. 2: 4).
“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened , and a little child shall lead them… They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Is. 11: 6-9).
What the world needs is ‘enlightenment’ that leads to a ‘conversion of heart’ whereby all relationships are patterned on the values of God’s Kingdom and not on human wisdom alone. This will not happen unless there is an unconditional openness to God’s grace and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
In the ‘Act of Consecration to the Immaculate of Mary’ of Russia and Ukraine which Pope Francis called for on March 25, 2022 there was a clear indication that humanity as a whole and the leaders in particular have strayed away from the path of peace; therefore, there is need of repentance, a conversion of heart and plea for God’s forgiveness:
“Yet we have strayed from that path of peace. We have forgotten the lesson learned from the tragedies of the last century, the sacrifice of the millions who fell in two world wars. We have disregarded the commitments we made as a community of nations. We have betrayed peoples’ dreams of peace and the hopes of the young… We chose to ignore God, to be satisfied with our illusions, to grow arrogant and aggressive, to suppress innocent lives and stockpile weapons… We have ravaged the garden of the earth with war and by our sins we have broken the heart of our heavenly Father, who desires us to be brothers and sisters. We grew indifferent to everyone and everything except ourselves. Now with shame we cry out: Forgive us, Lord!”
To walk on the path of peace is to want to be ‘children of God’ as Christ Our has taught us (cf. Mt. 5: 9).
In the words of Our Lord, to be children of God and to be peacemakers is interconnected and interchangeable. The purpose of the Incarnation, of the Word becoming flesh and coming to dwell among us full of grace and truth (cf. Jn. 1:14) is to make us ‘children of God’ (cf. Jn. 1:12). Let us remember that, to be children of God, is to be ‘born of God’. It is to be ‘born again’ as Our Lord tells Nicodemus (cf. Jn. 3:3-7).
Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ and accepts his Gospel ‘sees’ the Kingdom of God i.e., has the vision of a new humanity immersed in the Holy Spirit and in the Holy Trinity. If we are immersed in the Holy Trinity, we cannot live according to the ‘flesh’ alone, or the mere human ways of seeing and behaving, what St. Paul calls the ‘wisdom of the world’ or the ‘old self’. We have been transferred from the ‘kingdom of darkness’ to the ‘kingdom of light’, from the ‘kingdom of death to eternal life’. This is the constant process of renewal and repentance that the Holy Spirit enables us to undergo, in order to become day by day more and more , the ‘children of God’. Our Lord has told us very emphatically: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18: 3-4).
Violence and warfare are never absent from human history, however ‘civilized’ we may consider ourselves to be – and unfortunately, the more ‘civilized’ we claim to be, the more sophisticated weapons we produce for the destruction of humanity as the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine demonstrates.
In the midst of the communal divide we are experiencing in our own country, our inter-faith meetings for harmony and peace emphasize the need for building up a ‘peace force’ in our society representing all the religions, so that we don’t allow any forces to divide us. We have to stand together, hand in hand and heart to heart as one family where the bonds of love bind us all together as one nation, diverse of course in so many ways but ONE in our Indian identity.
More importantly, it has been pointed out that we need to overcome the ‘enemy within’ that sows the seeds of hatred and prejudice and injects poison in the way we look at each other and relate to each other. This I feel is the process of ‘inner renewal’ and ‘conversion of heart’ that is brought about when our hearts are open to God’s grace and truth and we walk on the path of childlikeness.
The parable of the ‘Good Samaritan’ (cf. Lk. 10) is a demonstration par excellence of the way in which humanity is called to transcend social and man-made prejudices in order to be neighbours to one another. Pope Francis devotes a whole chapter to reflect on this parable in his encyclical Fratelli Tutti (Chapter Two – ‘A Stranger on the Road’).
Our Lord’s call to repentance is a call to conversion of heart which is indispensable to a true relationship with God, with oneself and with one another. It is not only a matter of traditions, ritual practices and liturgical rites over which we often spend so much of our time and energy but an entry into a new way of life, a new way of thinking, relating and acting, a new mindset and scale of values and priorities which, in other words, is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Only when there is a conversion of heart we can come together as brothers and sisters, irrespective of our religion, we can enter into each other’s religious experiences and learn from as well as be enriched by each other, we can transcend the walls of caste, class, gender, ethnicity, language etc. which separate us, we can look into each other’s eyes and know that we belong to the same humanity where LOVE should be the norm and service the lifestyle.
Through our daily centring on God’s Word we enter into our inner Self which is God himself, we touch the Source of our being, the Source of all knowledge and Wisdom, our God who is LOVE, the Sat-Chit-Ananda. We do not act anymore from our superficial and often broken self but from our true Self which is God in us.
Therefore, contemplative prayer is so essential for our inner healing and to bring God’s healing touch into our broken families and broken world. Can we dream of such a new world which is healed and has become God’s kingdom? Yes, we can, and it’s also up to us to make it happen, to make it our vision and mission; but, as M. Basil Pennington, in the epilogue of his book Centring Prayer elaborates, we need to enter into our deep inner CENTRE to allow streams of love, peace and joy to flow from us. Centring Prayer is indispensable to building up peace in this world.
He says: “I have a dream. I see all the earth in peace, the whole human family living together, sharing the fruits of creation and the joy that comes from the good things of our planet and beyond. And this peace and joy, a universal compassion, flows within and out of the worldwide Christian family. Our brothers and sisters of other faiths, all people of good will, exclaim: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are the children of God.’ And each one of us Christians does indeed know, by personal experience, that he or she is a much-loved child of God. Our lives are filled with love and security, joy and peace. Each one is in touch with his or her own contemplative dimension. Busy days flow out of a deep centre. Space is found, time set apart, to enjoy a Father’s intimate loving presence and to let him enjoy us.”
In order to keep from losing ourselves and being totally dissipated and fragmented, we have to be in touch with our deeper selves, the ground of our being, and find our true selves in that unifying Source of Being. This is the secret of the unity of our individual being, of our families, of our communities, of the Church and the human society at large. Living in the Centre is a clear witness to the presence of the Holy Spirit in us.
Humanity is now vigorously exploring Mars and outer space in a bid to find life like ours outside our planet. Beautiful idea, but if at all beings like us do exist what will they want to learn from us – love or violence?
We may be familiar with little book Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The Little Prince has come from another planet and he meets a fox on the earth. The fox is afraid of the little prince and is reluctant to play with him because he is not ‘tamed’. The little prince does not understand the word ‘tame’ because on his planet there is no enmity and no fear of being killed. The fox goes on to explain to him the enmity that exists on the earth and how humans hunt the fox and the fox hunts chickens and so goes on the spiral of violence.
The beautiful words of the fox to the little prince: “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world… But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow.”
May peace come in this world through the powerful intercession of Our Blessed Mother.

Yours sincerely in the Lord,
+ Anil J. T. Couto
  Archbishop of Delhi