Amazing Grace

I stumbled across a wonderful movie, Amazing Grace. It is the story of William Wilberforce who worked tirelessly as a Member of Parliament for the abolition of slavery. Wilberforce was a passionate Christian and a committed reformer. He also wanted to improve conditions for factory workers and society in general.
Wilberforce suffered from a stomach aliment which debilitated him at times. This had to be due in part to the fact that he internalized the things he was reforming. He was tormented at times by visions and dreams of chained slaves.
The struggles of Wilberforce epitomize the struggles of all those who work for peace and justice. I just finished reading The Bells of Nagasaki—one Japanese doctor’s account of the nuclear terrorism that we unleashed on Japan. The scenes and images are haunting. When we work for peace and justice, we cannot help but take on some of the pain of those we are trying to help.
How do we deal with this? Mairead Maguire, Nobel Laureate, has one suggestion. She says that the problems are so big and so many that we often think we cannot get there from here. She says that we have the option of tackling the problems. Or we can just go and have a couple of drinks. Well, she encourages us to do both—work for justice and enjoy life.
John’s Gospel may offer us an important clue for dealing with the rigors of working for peace and justice.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. (Jn 14:27-28)
Immediately prior to this passage, Jesus has promised to send the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete Helper, the Advocate. The Holy Spirit is the Advocate for justice—tsedaquah.
We are agents of the Holy Spirit. It is God’s work not ours. As we prepare for Pentecost, our ardent prayer should be, “Come, Holy Spirit. Come!” (I thank our pastor, Fr. George Kloster, for bringing this to our awareness in his Sunday homily.)
Jesus gives us the gift of his peace. It is his peace. It is not the world’s peace. It is shalom—wellness, well-being. Peace is not the absence of conflict. It is the presence of justice and, unfortunately, the world does not embrace tsedaquah.
The Beast (Babylon = Rome = Washington) in Revelation thrives on power, domination and violence. Revelation 18 reminds us that, as Christians, we are to come out of empire. We are to stand over against empire as we work for Gospel values. Therefore, the world cannot and will not give us peace. When we resist empire and place our trust in Jesus, we are not overcome by fear. There is no need to be afraid.
Peace is gift—pure gift. Jesus wants us to rest in his peace. He wants us to work for justice and be at peace. Mother Teresa reminds us that we do not have to be successful. We just have to be faithful. We rest assured that Jesus will bring to completion that which he has started. The Holy Spirit will embolden us and strengthen us for the work.
“Come, Holy Spirit. Come.” Let this be our preparation prayer for Pentecost.

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