Saturday, November 9, 2013

Go in Peace

God of life, lead us to build peace in today's world

Worship: Paths of Peace
We are called to be peacemakers.  This peace, which we share with one another, is of the Spirit who breathes onto us the deep peace of Christ. Jesus eases our troubled souls (John 14:27-31), assuring us of God’s care even as God clothes the common flowers and beautiful weeds of the field (Mt 6:25-34).

The symbol used today was that of tenacious wildflowers, unlike cultivated flowers are tended only by God.  The Spirit of God grants us courage and wisdom to journey into the peaceable reign of God on earth.

The prayer concluded with this invocation:

God of peace and possibility,
make us instruments of your peace here and in all places,
so that we, may fulfil your will.
In the name of the Prince of Peace,
Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Salaman atruku lakom; salami au' tikom.

Bible study: Go in peace
The biblical text was from John 14:27-31 part of Jesus’ farewell discourse.  Jesus offers an alternative, a difference, a dilemma: the peace he offers contradicts peace as the “world understands it”.

 In this way he endows the word peace–itself powerful and highly significant in the Israelite tradition–with new meaning, new sense.  He leaves us questioning and deciding what value it will have for our lives, knowing that this peace unites us with Jesus’ presence and love.  This peace is his person, as the Apostle Paul acknowledges: “For he is our peace” (Eph 2:14).  It is with this in mind that we approach this Gospel text.

In the time of Jesus the word peace was part of the imperial propaganda.  The Pax Augusta justified imperial rule.  It was something that Rome offered as an (imposed) gift to other peoples, the Pax Romana.  At the same time it was identified as Pax deorum, the consent of the gods to bless the Roman legions with the glory of victory. This peace went hand in hand with security offered by world leaders.

However, the Hebrew meaning of the shalom that Jesus offers is quite different.  His peace does not bring death to the body nor does it imply an expression of superiority or the imposition of power.  In fact Jesus proposes himself as the abundance of life and freedom.
Shalom is the key word in this passage.  From the Hebrew and biblical meaning, there is a complexity in the word and its context.  Other senses associated with this word are salvation , mercy, health.  It is even used for one sleeping into death (Gen 15:15).  Primarily the shalom of God is about life, not death.  So the word goes far beyond the Greek concept of eirene or a sense of quietude and tranquility.
The greeting of the Risen Lord is a declaration of peace fulfilled in three acts: life as a gift from God to be proclaims to all peoples (“so I send you”), the presence of the Holy Spirit that revives creation (“receive the Holy Spirit”) and the forgiveness that restores human relationships (“if you forgive, you will be forgiven”).
In the final act, the passage is a call to action: “Rise, let us be on our way”.  Peace is meant to be a witness to bear and a task to fulfill.

The wildflower was used as the symbol for today's reflection.  It is something that is sown by God who alone takes care of it.  We see these flowers come back every year with their natural colors and beauty and yet no one tends them except God. The Bible study ended with the observation: "Peace is a defenseless flower", and yet . . .

. . .  flowers produce seeds.  How can we sow the seed of peace in our children and young people?

We concluded the study with this prayer:

This was the last of the Bible studies so let me recap the Biblical framework with this last slide:

The Peace plenary
This was the last plenary, the peace plenary.  It was intended to share stories, images and signs of hope that God is leading us to justice and peace.  It added dimensions of peace to earlier plenaries on justice, mission, unity and Asia.

The format was one of story sharing of the insights and struggles in the face of inequality, injustice and indifference.

The first of the stories was from Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate in 2011.  It told how she founded various peace and reconciliation initiatives and how she led a non-violent Christian and Muslim women’s movement that played a pivotal role in ending Liberia’s civil war in 2003.

The moderator of the session Anglican Bishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town then asked Chang Yoon Jae to speak about issues related to society, justice faith and peace.

The initiative and experiences of the peace churches was presented by Stanley Noffsinger who interviewed two young persons one from Iran and the other from Costa Rica.  These young people spoke about damage that the embargo on Iran is doing to the people in the villages often time causing shortages of food, medicines and creating issues for the youth of unemployment.  Fabian who was born deaf, talked about programs that discriminate against people who live with disabilities.  He seeks to build the sense of peace by promoting programs of wholeness and inclusiveness for those who are often left out of the social fabric of society thereby giving them a sense of wholeness and integrity.

Agata Abrahamian and Fabian Corrales

The plenary ended by singing a South African song:

Business sessions
The Assembly continued to work through the documents and proposals at the business meetings. The use of consensus approval continued with the delegates lifting up their orange or blue cards to signify approval or non approval.
Delegates vote approval with orange cards
      Since the Vatican delegation will be leaving on Friday morning this was our last offical session at the Assembly.  The WCC delegates will continue through Friday to approve changes in policy, accept reports and issue a closing statement to the churches.  But we had one last duty to carry out – the confessional meeting.

Confessional meeting
The Catholics who were present at the Assembly gather one last time as a group that included, journalists, steward, the members of the local Korean Catholic church and the Vatican delegated observers to share our impressions.
Most felt it was an enriching experience, a learning experience for some and an opportunity for all to share by our presence the desire of the Catholic church to work for the unity of Christians, peace and justice together with all who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Some learned of the complexities of the WCC and the difficulties that it faces as an institution of such diverse types of churches and ecclesial communities.  One disappointment was expressed. The issues of Faith and Order which focuses the attention on the unity that we seek was not as strong as it could have been.  For example, there were two very important documents that the Catholic Church and the WCC worked on during the last seven years, namely the document on the Church and the Joint Working Group’s final statement.  These were only mentioned in passing and didn’t seem to play a role in the Assembly’s program.  Even the Unity plenary which was to focus on the unity statement only gave a nod to these two documents.  Since the delegates of the Assembly will be the ones who will return to their churches and have the duty of bringing the documents to their ecclesial bodies for reception, it seemed that this was a missed opportunity.
In addition the Catholics had an opportunity to share with Bishop Farrell of the Christian Unity Council some hopes for work of the PCPCU in the coming years.  The wish that the Council would prepare a study on the reception of the Church document and give the Catholic response as a means of helping the Catholic church on the local level to be more active, more informed about ecumenism and taking the next steps on the journey to Christian unity.  There was also the hope that the Korean Catholic church would be able to correct the mistaken impression that Christianity came to Korea only when Protestant missionaries arrived.  It was also the hope of the Catholics present that unity and peace in the Korean peninsula would soon be achieved.  We were told that there are no priests serving the Catholics in the North which was a disturbing fact.

So as I prepare to board the plane for return to Rome I leave you with one last interview from one of the Catholic stewards at the Assembly 

and of course my wishes of 

Peace and all good!

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