Every day, several times a day, I walk past a sign in my house, it says “Peace Begins with a Smile”. It is a quote from Mother Theresa and was a gift from my Uncle Michael. It is a very simple wall hanging but very important to me. My Uncle Michael was amazing. My Uncle Michael ALWAYS smiled. He always had a silly joke and would keep me, my two sisters, and five cousins laughing until we fell off our chairs. He was the middle of five brothers and I’m the middle of not only my two sisters but also the cousins as well, so we shared a special bond in that way. Uncle Michael was also a Delesallian Christian Brother. The Brothers are a group of Catholic men across the world who devote their lives to serving others through education ministry. He had gone to school at St. Raymond’s in the Bronx where he was taught by Brothers and decided that his calling in life was to join them. He lived a life devoted to the service of others. He did not own many possessions and lived very simply. He taught science and I imagine that his classes would have been filled with wonder and laughter and a lot of smiles. He lived Mother Theresa’s quote every day to be a Peacemaker.
In the gospel of Matthew, we hear that Jesus goes to the top of the mountain and he speaks to the people and teaches them. “Blessed are the Peacemakers, he says, for they will be called children of God” When I went to my bible to study this passage, The Beatitudes they are called, I found this card with a quote. The famous British peacemaker Muriel Lester who worked with people like Ghandi. She said, “The Job of the Peacemaker is to stop war, to purify the world, to get it saved from poverty and riches, to heal the sick, to comfort the sad, to wake up those who have not yet found God and to create joy and beauty where ever you go. To Find God in Everything and Everyone.
With so much talk of things that aren’t right in the world: wars, lost jobs, poverty, racism, persecution. It is a pretty scary task to be a Peacemaker. But it is exactly what we are called to do in the reading from Micah, “what are you to do but do justice and walk humbly with your God.” I seek a bumper sticker on cars every once and a while that says, if you want peace…work for justice. And so many famous peacemakers we know from our social studies classes did just that, worked for justice in order to promote peace…
Can we name some??
Mother Theresa and Ghandi in India, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Martin Luther King, Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, and even famous Celebrities like George Clooney working for the Sudan and Bono from U2 working in Africa. or former President Clinton and his work in Africa and Haiti. And President Carter’s work with Habitat for Humanity in the US.
These people, these peacemakers come from all different walks of life, some rich, some poor, some in Asia, Africa, or the US, but all sharing the same character—to give of themselves freely to lift up others and to do so without trying to seek personal gain. They didn’t or don’t seek justice and peace in the world so they will get an award (though most of them have…the Nobel Peace Prize). They don’t do it for millions of dollars in fact we can look at examples like Gazillionaire Bill Gates giving away gazillions of dollars to strengthen health and education across the world.
The Peacemakers goal is not to gain glory for themselves, but to use themselves and their lives to help others. They do it because they believe that until we are all safe, fed, healthy, and free that none of us are free. So they work for justice to bring peace. And they do so humbly and without boasting.
When Christ walked the earth for his few short years he didn’t hang out with Kings or the rich guys. He spent his time with the weak, the poor, the sick. He preached that blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. That those who walked humbly would receive their blessings in Heaven. By living his life in service to others, he set an example and gave us the challenge to be the peacemakers.
Yesterday, I met with a group of St. John’s kids who spent their entire lunch and recess coming up with ideas to become peacemakers. Their goal is to become caretakers of the earth, our environment, and animals. And they spent the entire time not talking about who would get what award or who would win what party but about how they could work together to make a difference. They want to save the world and as one boy said, “make it a better place for the people who come after me.”
I was inspired by these Peacemakers. And they certainly left me smiling. And as Mother Theresa said, that is how peace begins.