We are celebrating an essential moment of this International Meeting of Prayer for Peace organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio. This meeting takes place year after year to keep the spirit of Assisi alive, after John Paul II started it with the representatives of the major world religions.
We gathered in the name of our Lord to pray, to faithfully and insistently ask Him to grant the gift of authentic peace to our world. We are all well aware that by world we mean the whole humanity, all men and women who received from our Lord Jesus the duty to be peacemakers. In this regard, we ask Him to fill our hearts with the gift of His peace. This is the only way for us to become people who sow peace built on love and justice in this world, while it stands unmoved by the horror of concentration camps, like Dachau, still dumbfounded while it commemorates the tenth anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers, and suffering the severe consequences of the economic crisis.
This passage from the Letter to the Romans reminds us of peace, and offers us the most solid fundament to build peace everywhere in every time. With this letter, the Apostle mentions several problems that were troubling the Christian Community. Some of those problems were related to the daily life of its members. The community of Rome gathered together Christians of very different origins: it is left unsaid that the “strong” were gentiles and the “weak” the Judeo Christians. We can assume the problems were related to Judaic prescriptions, considered by the “weak” as compelling for all Christians, while seen as outstripped in Christ by the “strong”.
The passage we listened to today has a rich moral content, evangelically moral, grounded in the Good News preached by Jesus. St Paul's exhortations remind us of the core message of the Sermon on the Mount: one should not return evil for evil, nor seek for his own justice, one should love his enemies and do them good, not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. St Paul develops his thought and expects this behavior from us all, who are united to Him through Baptism, in His death and resurrection. Surrounded by Christ, we must imitate Him, living in the world as He did, always doing everyone good.
The four chapters of exhortations in the Letter to the Romans insist several times on the foundation of true peace, which is the new commandment of fraternal love the Lord has given to us. The Apostle connected this love to the prescriptions of morality. Love summarizes the various essential facets of moral rules in one higher attitude: whoever loves, starting with his inner joyful freedom, is able to give everything to the others, much more than what the prescription itself required. Those who are faithful in Christ, whether they are of gentile or Judaic origin, must be united in love and mutual support. These are the roots of the foundation of peace within our communities and societies.
By touching upon the deepest concerns and desires of the human being, the evangelical message shines today with a new clarity when it proclaims blessed the peacemakers, “for they shall be called sons of God” (Mt 5,9). This beatitude drives us to pursue the duty the Lord gave us all, members of different religions and peoples from around the world, the duty we are fulfilling in these days altogether. We are happy to work for peace, and thus shall be called sons of God.
Peace on earth, which stems from love for friends and enemies, is the image and consequence of Christ’s peace, which comes from God our Father. His own incarnate Son, the Prince of Peace, reconciled humankind with God through the cross, and restoring unity to all in one body, He cancelled hatred in His flesh, and having risen with His Resurrection, He effused the Spirit of Love into the hearts of men and women.
Dear brothers and sisters gathered in the name of God, He is here among us; we ask him faithfully for the gift of peace He obtained through His death and resurrection. Jesus told us: “Ask and it will be given”. Let us ask, and follow the exhortation of the Apostle, for peace is a gift and a reward. We must beg and work for it, offer it to our brothers and sisters and receive it back from them, as we are going to do in a symbolic gesture here, all of us believers in Christ, and on the square with all our other brothers and sisters.
It will be an opportunity to bear witness once again to how religions further peace around the world, like an expression of God’s love for all humankind.