Folks are unsettled. Between unprecedented levels of violence in our city and neighborhood, a presidential season revealing a deeply divided country, and climate change that brings never-before-seen threats, to name but a few current realities, I not something in people’s faces that I don’t really remember in my lifetime; sort of a mix of bewilderment, wariness and fear.
I wonder what my response should be as a Benedictine? Pondering this question, I make a mental dash to the Psalms. They are, of course, the same Psalms prayed by Benedict and the communities he founded in the sixth century. Their moment must have been similar in disease and anxiety. The collapse of the Roman Empire in 476 resulted in political instability and social chaos. Sound familiar?
What do the psalms say about seeking peace? That text does a Benedictine spend more time with over the course of a lifetime than the Book of Psalms? The psalms are the river that flows over us, shaping our stony hearts into something closer to what they are supposed to be. So I spent a Saturday morning looking at where the word peace shows up in the psalms and it reminded me of something I already knew and prompted my gratitude for something I didn’t.
The reminder: Peace is ultimately God’s work, not ours. Obviously that does not excuse us from whatever we can do to make peace (“Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and follow after it.” Psalm 34:15).
Peace will be the hallmark of the reign of God’s anointed one (Psalm 72). This is an important truth to hold onto as we make our way in a world that is anything but peaceful. As we try to educate ourselves about global genocides and torture, as we search for the facts in the mudslinging of another presidential election, as we attempt to mend our sometimes fractured communities, we must acknowledge that our work alone will not be sufficient.
After a long day of doing what we do, saying what we say, living with whom we live, and humbly having to admit that it’s another day of coming up short, it is good to hear that God works through our small efforts, that God has the ultimate responsibility, that it is in and through God alone that the promise of peace is fulfilled.
The psalms are a primer for so many aspects of right relationship, and seeking peace is no exception. May we use them so. “Peace be upon Israel” (Psalm 125:5c)… and all of us.