by Rev. John Dear, S.J.
World Day of Peace/Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Numbers 6:22-27 | Galatians 4:4-7 | Luke 2:16-21
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising the God of peace for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them. ~Luke 2:20
The earth has completed its orbit and we come upon a new year, traditionally a season for resolutions. But given our heaving, lurching world of violence, we need more, more even then sincere intentions. We need, I believe, solemn, religious vows–vows in particular to enter upon an abiding commitment to God’s way of peace and love.
Twenty-five years ago, some friends and I professed a vow of nonviolence in the spirit of Gandhi, who professed a similar vow one hundred years ago. Later, Pax Christi USA approached Eileen Egan and me. Would we draft a vow of nonviolence? Something to lead members into new dedication to the path of nonviolence. She and I managed to compose it, and tens of thousands have professed it since.
Gandhi, I’m convinced, was right: the only solution to global violence is creative, loving nonviolence. A great challenge and a tall order. For us, it entails, from this day onward, being nonviolent to our spouses, children, parents, relatives, neighbors, and everyone we meet. It entails being nonviolent to ourselves, nonviolent in our language and in our work. Nonviolent in our politics and policies. Nonviolent in our attitudes toward humanity and creation. From now on, we espouse and practice nonviolence toward the whole human race, come what may.
Such a commitment is a life-long journey. It requires daily meditation, study, Gospel-reading, community building, periodic training, and public action. It requires finding a way to place the God of peace at the center of our lives, putting God as the goal of our common life, making divine values the measure of all we do. Nonviolence requires surrendering ourselves over and over again to the God of peace. Only then will we find ourselves becoming instruments of peace.
This new year, we’re invited to take a fresh look at the Pax Christi Vow of Nonviolence. You’ll find it fits well within our long tradition of solemn, religious vows. One can pronounce it privately, or with a local peace community, or as part of a parish liturgy. Share it with parishioners, family, co-workers, neighbors, and friends. You might want to read it every morning as a way to remind yourself of your commitment to the path of nonviolence.
Taken seriously, a vow of nonviolence will set us on a course of immeasurable blessings. It will bear us over a lifetime of peace, forgiveness, compassion, and suffering love, will inspire lifelong fidelity to the nonviolent Jesus. Together, as Pax Christi people, it may transform us into a new church, a new world of peace.