Spirituality and Ethics
Praying And Living The Beatitudes - Eighth

By Fr. Max Oliva, S.J.

"Blessed are the Peacemakers" (Matthew 5:9)

There is a longing for peace in the human heart, a peace, as St. Augustine discovered, that can only ultimately be satisfied by the Creator.

There are a variety of synonyms for peace: harmony, serenity, tranquility, silence, stillness. Serenity suggests dignity, composure and graciousness; tranquility implies having a healthy command of one’s emotions perhaps because a strong faith keeps one unagitated even in the midst of turmoil. Consider the first stanza of a Japanese version of Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd” –

The Lord is my pace setter. I shall not rush,
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals.
He provides me with images of stillness
Which restore my serenity.

As a way of focusing ourselves on the Christmas Season, here is my Christmas “Gift of Peace” wish list:

  • For some quality time each day when I let myself be aware of a Power greater than myself.
  • For the discipline to spend more time with my family during the holiday Season.
  • For the courage to be an instrument of peace, at home and at work, seeking understanding, unity, and reconciliation above all other considerations.

“If you want peace, act with justice´ (Psalm 72)

  • That there be peace among religions, which involves frank and patient dialogue, and a refusal to consider differences as an insurmountable barrier.
  • That as Jesus was born in simple surroundings, we might value simplicity more than an accumulation of material things.
  • That those who have will share with those who have little, not out of a sense of duty but because we are brothers and sisters of the same Father.

“The wolf shall be a guest of the lamb…” (Isaiah 11:6)

  • That there be mutual regard between labour and management, democrat and republican each respecting the opinions of the other.
  • That there be an attitudinal shift in how human beings view the environment – from one of domination to reverential appreciation.


A “gap’ sometimes appears in our life. It may be caused by the economy, by the political scene, or it might be the result of some deeply personal hurt. Basically, it occurs: when our expectations and our reality are not in sync, when our hopes and what is do not meet, or when what ‘ought’ to be, for some reason, isn’t. The tension between these poles makes us feel uncomfortable.

Yet, it is in this ‘gap,’ which sometimes can be tragic, that we need to ask ourselves some important questions:

  • What can I learn from this situation? What does it have to teach me?
  • Can the suffering I am experiencing become life-giving rather than death-dealing?
  • How can I best hold the tension between what ‘ought’ to be and what is?
  • What ‘habits of the heart’ do I need to cultivate to deal with this tension?
  • What supports and sustains me in the ‘gap’?

(I am grateful to the authors in the magazine, Weavings (March/April, 2009), for their insights into what is known as the “Tragic Gap.”)

(November/December 2010 Newsletter)


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