Peacemaking Starts at the Bottom

I’ve been using Common Prayer – A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals for the last month or so. Previously, I was using the pocket edition, but my father-in-law knew that I had been wanting the fuller version, so he was kind enough to purchase it for me at the beginning of June. It has been a salve to my soul, and has really helped to bolster my prayer life in a way I don’t think I have ever experienced before.

At the beginning of each month, the book introduces a new theme that the daily prayers focus on. August’s theme is “peacemaking” — and the difficulty of such a practice in any age. In the description of the theme, they write,

In his Rule, Benedict of Nursia speaks passionately about the deadly poison of ‘murmuring,’ the negativity and dissension that can infect community and rot the fabric of love.

Peacemaking begins with what we can change — ourselves. But it doesn’t end there. We are to be peacemakers in a world riddled with violence. That means interrupting violence with imagination, on our streets and in our world.

This made me think about the current state of things. Politically, the world is roiling. My Twitter feed is in a constant state of outrage. There are children and families being harmed, lies and foolishness being thrown around with no regard for truth and honesty and human dignity. This present moment is enough to make us feel like the world is falling apart, and feel helpless in the process of watching it happen.

Where does peacemaking (especially a peacemaking built on the foundation of Christ’s self-sacrificial love) fit in a world like this? This is where Benedict’s rule about communities can help us. Most of us likely can’t do anything about these large problems. But when Benedict was attempting to build a loving community, he focused on small acts like murmuring and negativity and dissension. Why? Because those are the things we can change about ourselves. We can yell and scream all day long on digital services. We can worry about things happening thousands of miles away over which we have no control. Or, we can change ourselves. We can build quiet, loving, thoughtful dispositions. We can bring our neighbors food when they are sick. We can volunteer at our school’s PTA, or buy school supplies for a new teacher for the year.

Peacemaking starts at the bottom. We ought to build peaceful personal dispositions, leading to peaceful families, building a foundation for peaceful neighborhoods, communities, and cities. Don’t worry about the current political climate today. Instead, show some kindness to someone, face-to-face.

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