On Sunday, just five days after two teenage terrorists in France killed Father Jacques Hamel during a Catholic Mass, more than 150 Muslims, in the spirit of fraternity, attended Masses throughout the country. Encouraged by their leaders, Muslims in Rouen, nearby Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Lille, Calais, Paris, and Nice attended Sunday services to express solidarity with Catholics and to denounce the murder and terrorism committed in the name of Islam. Leaders within the Muslim community believed it was important to physically express support for their Christian neighbors.
In response, Catholic church-goers welcomed and embraced their Muslim guests. This included one nun who was taken hostage during the same attack that killed Father Hamel. After the service, the nun turned to nearby Muslims and shook hands and hugged them. Rather than shrinking back in fear or distancing herself with indignation, she extended peace to those she could easily label as enemies.
While violence perpetrated by a few grabs headlines across the globe, masses of people counteract it by gathering together peacefully. The Church also seeks to respond to acts of violence with forgiveness and seeking peace. Even as one part of the body of Christ is wounded, another part reaches out to embrace a would-be enemy. Despite differences in belief and practice, Catholics and Muslims acknowledged their common humanity and shared frailties, and affirmed their mutual desire for peace.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus affirmed the work of peacemaking. He said, “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”
While peace does not resolve every difference between people, it creates an opportunity for interaction and conversation that violence cannot achieve. Later in his sermon, Jesus went on to show how peace and forgiveness trump vengeance and retribution. Read what he said. As you do, think about who you can extend peace to today. Who do you need to forgive or ask forgiveness from?
“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”