Lesson # 9
God's Plan for a Transformed Heart and Life:
Blessed are the Peacemakers
God of Peace and Justice,
Make us, Lord, instruments of Your peace. In Your name we want to banish strife and discord in order to bring harmony and love. We can only do this, Lord, if our lives are filled up with the love of Christ. The more our lives are a reflection of His life, the more peace and love radiates from us out to a troubled world. Help us to be militant about peace and violently opposed to any and all things in this world that stand in the way of brotherhood and justice. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS
...the children of
God are peacemakers, because nothing resists God, and surely children ought to
have the likeness of their father.
The Sermon on the Mount, St. Augustine, Book I chapter 2.9
The peace shown by peacemakers brings a harvest of justice. James 3:18
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9
St. Augustine wrote that the peacemakers are not only peaceful but that they are active makers of peace. They encourage peace around them by healing alienations and discord and bringing about reconciliation. But this peace begins within them as they conform themselves to the image of God, and then the peace they generate diffuses from them to the world (Augustine, Sermon on the Mount, Book I chapter 2.9). This is the kind of peacemaking we must seek. Internal peace transformed into militantly spiritual and joyously unquenchable peace shared with our family, our friends, and the world as our witness of a life conformed to the Prince of Peace!
Question: Peace, or Shalom in Hebrew, is the traditional Semitic salutation. Jesus' usual greeting was the typical Semitic, "Peace be with you" (used 5 times in the Gospels). But how do the three New Testament passages in Philippians 4:7; Colossians 3:15; and Romans 15:33 speak of "peace"?
Peace in the context of these 3 passages is a gift of God. But in John's Gospel when Jesus speaks of "peace," He also defines the concept of peace by linking "peace" to His mission.
Question: In these three passages in the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks of peace. In the context of His mission how does Jesus define "peace" in each of these passages: John 14:27; 16:32-33; 20:19-29?
Question: In the celebration of the Mass when do we remember Jesus' call to peace?
As we move into the Communion Rite we, as the Body of Christ, recite the Lord's Prayer and then we are called by the priest to make the "sign of peace". All the preceding prayers in the celebration of the Mass have been directed to God the Father. But now, after the rite of washing his hands to show his ritual cleanliness and purity of heart, the priest for the first time directly addresses God the Son. As the congregation continues to stand after the Lord's Prayer the priest, with his hands extended toward the faithful, prays for peace:
Lord Jesus Christ, You said to Your Apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you.' Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live for ever and ever.
After the priest, on our behalf, makes the petition for peace to Jesus our Savior, the congregation responds with a mighty "Amen!"
Question: In this one petition there are really 3 implied pleas for peace. What are they?
Answer: In this petition we are not only praying for our personal peace but also for peace for the whole faith community as well as peace for the universal Church.
Note: The sign of peace, also known as the "kiss of peace" is an ancient rite that can be traced back to the very earliest years of the Church. St. Justin, in his letter to the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius c. 150-155AD wrote a description of Christian worship in which he mentions the "sign" or "kiss" of peace" (see Apologies, St. Justin Martyr, Book 1.67).
After our "Amen", meaning for us, "we believe" or, "it is true", we receive the priest's greeting: The peace of the Lord be with you always, to which we respond: And also with you. Then the priest encourages us to: Let us offer each other the sign of peace. At this invitation the congregation exchanges some sign of love and peace with families, and then to the extended members of our covenant family sitting next to us. But this is more than just an opportunity to express love, friendship, and unity.
Question: What other last opportunity is there for us in this rite that precedes Communion?
Answer: It is a last opportunity to mend hurt feelings and to forgive and be forgiven before coming forward to receive the Lord Jesus in Holy Eucharist. In this rite we are in effect carrying out the 5th petition of the "Lord's Prayer:" ...forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us..., just as Jesus instructed us in Matthew 5:23-24: Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you. Leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
At this point in the Mass we should feel our very souls flooded with the sense of peace and faith that is a consequence of our desire to be united with Christ and His Church. As the priest breaks what was the bread, but which is now the Body of Jesus our Savior, and as we sing our hymn to the Lamb which ends with the phrase Lamb of God your take away the sins of the world: grant us peace, our hearts should be beating loudly within our breasts. This is the time of the victory song of the Lamb when the heavenly choirs of angels and saints are singing: Alleluia! The Lord has established his reign, God, the almighty. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready! (Revelation 19:6b-7). It is at that point in the Mass as we prepare to go forward to Communion that we should abandoned ourselves completely into the will of God through Christ Jesus who imparts to us a peace beyond understanding, as with great joy we ready ourselves to go forward to receive Christ as children of the Most High God!
FOR THEY WILL BE CALLED CHILDREN OF GOD
But to those who did accept him, he gave power to become children of God, to those who believed in his name who were born not from human stock or human desire or human will but from God himself. John 1:11-13
Matthew 5:9: ...for they will be called children of God.
This promise is literally "sons of God", a title that occurs only here in Matthew's Gospel.
Question: This promise has what two dimensions not previously available for the Old Covenant laity. What are these two dimensions which humanity lost in the Fall from grace?
It will help to understand the dimensions of this promise to look carefully at what St. John wrote in his Gospel concerning this rebirth into the family of God: But to those who did accept him, he gave power to become children of God, to those who believed in his name who were born not from human stock or human desire or human will but from God himself (John 1:11-13) [New Jerusalem Translation].
Think of the power of the statement in this verse!
Question: ..to those who believed in his name... What does this phrase mean? Hint see John 20:31 &1John 5:1
Answer: To those who believed Jesus is the Son of God the Messiah of Israel. To these who believe God gave the power of divine son [and daughter]-ship. 1Jn 5:1: Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God...
It is also important to understand that to the ancients one's name expressed the sum of the qualities that marked the nature or character of that person. To believe in the name of Jesus Christ is to accept as true the revelation contained in that name: that Jesus is fully man and fully God come to redeem the world. St. Thomas Aquinas, the great biblical scholar and theologian wrote about this passage: ...those who believe in his name are those who fully hold the same of Christ not in any way lessening his divinity or his humanity (St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary of St. John, 1:12-13.
John 1:12: But to those who did accept him, he gave the power to become children of God.. The word in Greek that is translated here "power" is exousia. In other Bible translations it may be rendered as "right". The use of exousia in this passage does not indicate only the possibility or the ability to become "children of God", but legitimate right derived from the authority of the Word. And it is only through the Word that we have this "power."
That Christ gave us the "power" is the same way of saying that He gave us a free gift and that gift was sanctifying grace.
Question: How is this "free gift" extended to us through the Church?
Answer: This gift is a supernatural infusion of grace, which is extended through the sacrament of Baptism to everyone. The only condition is that we have faith. The great St. Athanasius explained it this way: The Son of God became man in order that the sons of men, the sons of Adam, might become sons of God.....He [Adam] is the son of God by nature; we, by grace... (St Athanasius, The Incarnation). This is the gift of divine son-ship and we cannot truly call ourselves "Children of God" until this miracle regenerates us with "new life" into the family of God. It is what Jesus will reveal to Nicodemus in chapter 3 of St. John's Gospel.
John 1:13...who were born not from human stock, or human desire or human will but from God himself. The more literal translation is: were begotten not of bloods [plural], nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man."
Question: In the Gospel of John 1:11-23 St. John defines this supernatural birth into divine son-ship in the negative by listing 3 ways we were not born into God's Covenant Family. What are they?
The Greek word for blood is actually in the plural form = "bloods." To the ancients all bodily fluids were part of the life force. In other words this is not a birth by the standards of nature: not by sperm = descent, not by desire or lust, and not generated by procreation through human power. This is purely a supernatural birth from above; a free gift of faith and grace.
Also see the other CCC references on the Sacrament of Baptism #1213-1274.
Question: In the Old Testament are all the children of Adam called "sons of God"?
Answer: No, it is a title reserved only for the angelic beings of Yahweh's heavenly court; for Covenant keepers, especially for Israel as God's holy nation (rarely used in the Old Testament); and for the kings of the House of David from whose line the Messiah would come.
Note: In the Old Testament the term "sons of God" was infrequently used but never did Covenant believers take upon themselves the right to address Yahweh as "Father." This is a privilege imparted to us in the New Covenant only through God the Son.
It is interesting that peace making and sonship/daughtershhip are brought together in this blessing. In 1 Chronicles 22:9-10 peacemaking and sonship are brought together in King David's son Solomon when Yahweh promises David: However, a son is to be born to you. He will be a peaceful man, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. For Solomon shall be his name, and in his time I will bestow peace and tranquility on Israel. It is he who shall build a house in my honor; he shall be a son to me, and I will be a father to him, and I will establish the throne of his Kingship over Israel forever. The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, is reflected in Solomon's name, which in Hebrew is Shelomo. The "son" or "daughter" who is reborn through baptism into the New Covenant family of God must be a son or daughter who manifests the peace of God in Christ, and this peace of God in Christ is manifested in us through a supernatural power.
Question: Through what supernatural power is this peace of Christ manifested in us?
Answer: Through the 3rd Person of the Most Holy Trinity, through God the Holy Spirit.
Question: In Galatians 5:22-23 St. Paul speaks of the "fruit of the Spirit". How is this blessing of peace connected to that passage?
Answer: St. Paul speaks of "peace" as the third fruit of the Spirit. These "fruits of the Spirit" are perfections that God the Holy Spirit forms in the children of God as the first fruits of eternal glory. Galatians 5:22-23 lists 9 "fruits of the Holy Spirit: ...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, as God's children we are commanded to bear much "fruit" by Christ who has grafted us onto Himself as the "true vine". The "fruit" or works we bear is an outpouring of the gifts the Holy Spirits imparts to us. The peace we generate is part of that outpouring. St. Basil wrote: Through the Holy Spirit we are restored to paradise, led back to the Kingdom of heaven, and adopted as children, given confidence to call God Father' and to share in Christ's grace, called children of light and given a share in eternal glory (quoted from CCC # 736).
The seventh step on the road to salvation and the seventh promise:
Blessed are the peacemakers:
with Christ living in us we
become conformed to His
image of peace and love à
in the image of Christ we
become divine children of
Question for group discussion:
For New Covenant believers it is necessary that we die to this world and its self-centered doctrine of what constitutes happiness and that we instead live for Christ and the blessedness that comes from being a child of God: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure (1 John 3:1-3). When as a child of God, the Christian dies to self and lives for Christ, he is elevated to the position of Christ's Apostle of peace and love.
Question: Why is one of Jesus' titles the "Prince of Peace?" By "peace" Jesus doesn't mean "absence of conflict" (see Mat 10:34-36; Lk 12:51-53). With Christ there is no middle ground; either He is "the Gate" and "the Way" (Jn 10:7-10; 14:6-7) or you reject Him and choose your own way. What kind of peace was Jesus referring to in His homily at the Last Supper in Jn 14:27 and 16:33? What was Jesus' greeting to the disciples after His Resurrection? See Lk 24:36; Jn 20:19, 21, 26. What kind of peace was Paul speaking of in Phil 4:6-7?
Question: Mercy is one of the fruits of charity and so is peace (CCC# 1829). Peace is also listed as a fruit of the Holy Spirit (CCC# 736; 1832), and peace is a precious gift from God (CCC# 1424; 1468). What is the Christian's obligation as peacemaker in a troubled world? Read what the Catechism says about safeguarding peace in CCC# 2302-2306.
Question: After discussing our obligations as Christ's ambassadors of love and peace, discuss some strategies we can employ in our families, in our communities, in our nation, and in the world to fulfill our role as peacemakers. How do you practice internal peace? How do you express your peace externally? What are some strategies that promote peace within yourself?
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.