As you read and reflect on today’s beatitude, please listen to this track from contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. We will feature this track throughout Lent.
If you had walked through the marketplace of first century Nazareth, or a hillside lane in Galilee, you would have heard the ancient Jewish greeting of “Shalom” or “Peace”. Even today if you stroll through Jerusalem you would hear the same greeting of “Shalom”, or its Arabic equivalent “Salaam”. In churches around the world every Sunday, Christians still “exchange the peace” and greet one another: “The peace of the Lord be with you”. For the people of God, “Peace” always conveys far more than a simple “Hello” and “Goodbye”.
Our understanding of the rich Biblical concept of peace is enhanced by knowing that “Shalom” comes from a root word meaning “wholeness” and “completeness”. Thus, peace means more than the absence of trouble. Rather, peace “always means everything which makes for a man’s highest good” (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2). Peace is that which makes life “whole” and “complete”.
We find in the Hebrew Scriptures that Shalom is a multi-faceted word denoting “well-being” (II Kings 4:26), “salvation” (Isaiah 60:17), “safety” (Judges 11:31), and “friendship” (Jeremiah 38:22). The depth of the meaning of “Shalom” must be read into Jesus’ promise of peace to His followers: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27). The peace Jesus gives is life whole and complete, even in a world that’s coming apart.
Becoming peacemakers in our churches and community will never mean peace at any price, or passive acquiescence to the ways things are. Rather, becoming peacemakers will mean actively pursuing the highest good of others. It will mean helping them to become whole and complete. Bible scholar Jack Kingsbury describes God’s peacemakers as “those who work for wholeness and well-being that God wills for a broken world” (Matthew As Story).
PONDER AND PRAY
“If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?”—James 2:15
- How does a fuller definition of peace/shalom as “whole” and “complete” add to your understanding of what it means for you to be a peacemaker?
- Pray: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is sadness joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.” (Francis of Assisi)
- What do you want to say to God?