“Christ’s peace is not the simple absence of conflict.”

The following is an address given by Pope Benedict XVI on 19 August 2007, discussing Christ’s statement that he has come not to bring peace but division:

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

There is an expression of Jesus’ in this Sunday’s Gospel that always draws our attention and which needs to be properly understood. As he is on his way to Jerusalem, where death on the cross awaits him, Christ confides in his disciples: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”

And he adds: “From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Luke 12:51-53).

Whoever knows the least amount about the Gospel of Christ knows that it is the message of peace par excellence; Jesus himself, as St. Paul writes, “is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14); he died and rose from the dead to break down the wall of enmity and inaugurated the Kingdom of God, which is love, joy, and peace.

How, then, are we to explain these words of his? To what is the Lord referring when he says that he has come to bring — according to St. Luke’s redaction — “division,” or — according to St. Matthew’s — the “sword” (Matthew 10:34)?

Christ’s expression means the peace that he came to bring is not synonymous with the simple absence of conflict. On the contrary, the peace of Jesus is the fruit of a constant struggle against evil. The battle that Jesus has decided to fight is not against men or human powers but against the enemy of God and man, Satan.

Those who desire to resist this enemy, remaining faithful to God and the good, must necessarily deal with misunderstandings and sometimes very real persecution. Thus, those who intend to follow Jesus and commit themselves without compromises to the truth must know that they will face opposition and will become, despite themselves, a sign of division among persons, even within their own families.

Love of one’s parents is indeed a sacred commandment, but for it to be lived authentically it cannot be set in opposition to the love of God and Christ. In such a way, in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus, Christians must become “instruments of his peace,” according to the celebrated expression of St. Francis of Assisi. This is not an inconsistent and superficial peace but a real one, pursued with courage and tenacity in the daily commitment to defeat evil with good (cf. Romans 12:21), paying in person the price that this carries with it.

The Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, shared the struggle of her son Jesus against the evil one, to the point of spiritual martyrdom, and she continues to share this struggle until the end of time. Let us invoke her maternal intercession, that she may help us always to be faithful witnesses to Christ’s peace, never giving in to compromises with evil.

(Translated by the Zenit news agency.)

Credo

Three weeks ago John made this comment on the thread Shoghi Effendi and Christian Authority:

Given that you are a convert to the Roman Catholic faith I wonder if a good place to start may be the nature of God, of man and of Jesus Christ. As there are many views on these questions among Christians in general, and amongst some Roman Catholics, it would be interesting to explore these questions to see if it is possible for us to arrive at a common understanding about them. If you are interested in pursuing these themes a good start may be for you to outline the nature of the God you believe in, the nature and purpose of man and his relationship with God and the nature and purpose of Jesus Christ in your world view. A more fundamental question is what is the purpose of creation per se.

I’ve been remiss in getting back to this. Haven’t had time for blogging in a while. But now I can take a crack at it.

The easiest way to sum up my belief would be to recite the Nicene Creed. But instead I’ll put my beliefs in my own words.

The nature of God

God is eternal, which means he exists outside of time. He created everything that exists, including time and space. God is a community of persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (called the Trinity).

(Since leaving the Baha’i Faith and becoming Christian, I have fallen out of the habit of capitalizing pronouns when referring to God. Hope that isn’t too distracting.)

The nature and purpose of man and his relationship with God

Man, like all of God’s creatures, are created first and foremost to glorify God. They also reflect the image of God according to their nature. So in man, the love between men reflects the love within the Trinity. When a husband and wife have a child, for example, this is an image of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the love shared by the Father and the Son.

Humans consist of body and soul. The two together make up a human being. So we glorify God and reflect his nature by means of both our body and our soul. That’s why, for example, we perform movements when we worship: have processions, kneel before the Eucharist, etc. We worship God according to our nature, and our nature includes our body.

God calls us to be in relationship with him, and to participate in his work. So when God creates a new person, he includes us in the act (through the marital embrace). When God saves a soul from sin, he includes us in that too (through our teaching, or our companionship, or through sacraments which we humans perform, or whatever God calls us to do).

The nature and purpose of Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ is the link between us and God. I mentioned above that our purpose is to be in relationship with God and to participate in God’s work. Ultimately we are to be with God for eternity. Jesus Christ is how that happens. He brings us into the life of the Trinity.

There’s a line in the liturgy: “May we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” So this is how the link takes place: Christ, who is God, becomes a human being, so that human beings who join themselves to him may share in his divinity.

There’s a lot more I could say about everything I’ve written above, but this is sufficient for now.