Tuesday, August 3, 2010

peacemaking - loving your enemy

"Here we touch one of the greatest dangers that face peacemakers: that peacemakers themselves become the victims of the evil forces they are trying to overcome. The same fear of "the enemy" that leads warmakers to war can begin to affect the peacemaker who sees the warmaker as "the enemy." Words of anger and hostility can gradually enter into the language of the peacemaker. Even the sense of urgency and emergency that motivates the arms race can become the driving force behind the peacemaker. Then indeed the strategy of war and the strategy of peace have become the same, and peacemaking has lost its heart.

"One of the reasons why so many people have developed strong reservations about the peace movement is precisely that they do not see the peace they seek in the peacemakers themselves. Often what they see are fearful and angry people trying to convince others of the urgency of their protest. The tragedy is that peacemakers often reveal more of the demons they are fighting than of the peace they want to bring about.

"The words of Jesus go right to the heart of our struggle: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly" (Lk 6: 27-28). The more I reflect on these words, the more I consider them to be the test for peacemakers. What my enemies deserve is not my anger, rejection, resentment, or disdain, but my love. Spiritual guides throughout history have said that love for the enemy is the cornerstone of the message of Jesus and the core of holiness."

-- Henri J. M. Nouwen in “Peacework”


  1. How sadly true! The same could be said by the pro-life movement to an even greater extent. Jesus' call to peacemaking is tough work.

  2. Ain't it the truth! Really tough, I catch myself falling back into that we/they - I/you mode all the time, judging and then seeing myself as somehow more "right".

  3. Beth,

    You probably have seen this but it is worth reading. I will place a link so you can find the entire thing.

    Br. William OSB

    "Merton's whole life was based on prayer, contemplation and mysticism, but it was not so that we could go and hurt others, or bomb others, or dominate the world, but so that we could commune with the living God. I spent my first ten years as a Jesuit praying by telling God what to do, yelling at God for not making the world a better place, until finally, a wise spiritual director said, "John, that is not the way we speak to someone we love." A light went on in my mind: prayer is about a relationship with someone I love, with the God of love and peace. So my prayer changed to a silent listening, a being with God, which is what contemplative nonviolence is all about.

    Merton knew that prayer, contemplation, meditation, adoration and communion mean entering into the presence of the God of peace, dwelling in the nonviolence of Jesus, that, in other words, the spiritual life begins with contemplative nonviolence, that every one of us is called to be a mystic of nonviolence.

    So in prayer, we turn to the God of peace, we enter the presence of the One who loves us and who disarms our hearts of our inner violence and transforms us into people of Gospel nonviolence and then sends us on a mission of disarming love and creative nonviolence.

    Through contemplative nonviolence, we learn to give God our inner violence and resentments, to grant clemency and forgiveness to everyone who hurts us; to move from anger and revenge and violence to compassion, mercy and nonviolence so that we radiate personally the peace we seek politically.

    In the end, as Merton knew, peace is a gift from God. If we are addicted to violence, as the Twelve Step model teaches, we need to turn to our Higher Power, confess our violence, support one another through communities of nonviolence, and become sober people of nonviolence. "The chief difference between violence and nonviolence," Merton writes, "is that violence depends entirely on its own calculations. Nonviolence depends entirely on God and God's word." Fr. John Dear


  4. Thanks for that, Brother William.

    I was in Haiti with John Dear in 1992, the year before he was ordained. I've mostly kept up with what he's been doing and writing, and I see him every few years.

    Interesting that someone else sent me some of his words via email today. Many Catholics have a difficult time understanding him.

  5. LOL,

    That was me Beth. I send out an ocassion emial/journal/essay popped you on the list as a one time send. Thought you might like the link to his speech.

    Br. William OSB


From Dorothy Day’s editorial in the Catholic Worker on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.