“Be at peace with one another” (Mk 9:50).
In the midst of all the conflicts that are harming humanity in many parts of the world, how welcome is Jesus’ invitation to peace! It keeps hope alive when we realize that he himself is peace, and that he has promised to give us his peace.
Mark’s Gospel places these words of Jesus at the end of a list of instructions to his disciples. While meeting at home in Capernaum, he explains how they should live as his community. The conclusion is clear: everything must lead to peace, which contains every good.
It is a peace we are called to experience in our daily lives: in our families, at work, with those who have different political ideas. It is a peace that is not afraid to face contrary opinions, which we need to speak about openly if we want a unity that is always more true and profound. It is a peace that, at the same time, demands that we should take care that our relationship of love never dwindles, because the other person is more valuable than any differences that may exist between us.
Speaking on German television in 1988, Chiara Lubich said, “Wherever unity and mutual love come to be, there is peace, indeed, true peace. Because where there is mutual love, there is a certain presence of Jesus among us, and he truly is peace, peace par excellence.”
Chiara’s “ideal of unity” was born during World War II and it immediately seemed the antidote to hatred and ruptures in society. From then on, when faced with any conflict, Chiara persistently put forward the Gospel logic of love, as can be seen in a few citations from her 1994 book Santi insieme (Saints Together).
When, for example, war exploded in Iraq in 1990, she expressed bitter surprise at hearing “words that we thought had been buried, such as: ‘the enemy,’ ‘our enemies,’ ‘hostilities are beginning,’ and the war bulletins about prisoners, defeats … We realized with dismay that this was a blow to the fundamental Christian principle of Jesus’ ‘commandment’ par excellence, his ‘New Commandment’… Instead of loving one another, instead of being ‘ready to die for one another’ here is humankind again ‘in the abyss of hatred’: contempt, torture, killing.”
She asked herself how we could escape this. “We must knit together, wherever possible, new relationships or deepen those that already exist, between those of us who are Christians and the followers of other monotheistic faiths: Muslims and Jews.” In other words, the solution would involve all those engaged
in the conflict at that time.
The same is true when faced with any kind of conflict. We must weave together, among individuals and peoples, relationships of listening, of love, as Chiara would also say, to the point of “being ready to die for one another.” It is necessary to set aside one’s own positions in order to understand the others, even though we know that we will not always manage to understand them completely.
The other can do the same with me, although at times they too may not understand me and my positions. But nonetheless we want to stay open to the other, even when there is difference and lack of understanding — before all else saving our relationship.
The Gospel makes it a command: “Be at peace.” Making it a command is a sign that serious and tough commitment is called for. It is one of the most essential expressions of the love and mercy we are called to have for one another.
Fr. Fabio Ciardi, OMI
Each month the Focolare offers a Scripture passage as a guide and inspiration for daily living. Ever since the Focolare’s earliest years, founder Chiara Lubich (1920–2008) wrote her own commentaries each month. Now Fr. Fabio Ciardi, OMI, theologian and close collaborator of Lubich, is writing the commentaries, reflecting her thoughts and her spirituality of unity.
Read more on this topic:
Lubich, Chiara. “Mutual love,” The Art of Loving. New City Press: Hyde Park, New York, 2010, p. 99-118.
Lubich, Chiara. “Our brothers and sisters,” Essential Writings. New City Press: Hyde Park, New York, 2007, p. 78.
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” (Eph 4:32)