Card. Turkson: Peace and happiness must come from God

2013-08-09 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) The President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Peter Turkson, is in Japan for the “Ten Days for Peace” initiative, which is marked in every diocese of the country to mark the anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which took place on the 6th and 9th of August, in 1945.

In his homily at Mass celebrated on Friday, Cardinal Turkson said “true peace and happiness” must come from God.

Read the full text of Cardinal Turkson’s homily:

Nagasaki, 9 August 2013

HOMILY: THE GIFT OF TRUE PEACE

Isaiah 57:14-19; 1 John 3:14-18; Luke 6:20-23a

From his personal experience of salvation in Christ - how undeserving he was-, St. Paul learnt to preach a Gospel of the utter gratuitousness of every human experience of God’s salvation. In his letter to the Romans, he wrote: “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us....” Indeed, while “we were still enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son.....” (Rm.5:8ff.). Thus, for St. Paul, all of us “are saved by grace (God’s favour) through faith” (Eph.2:8).

In the first Reading of our Eucharistic celebration today, Isaiah tells us that it is not only St. Paul who can celebrate the gratuitousness of God’s salvation. Indeed, long before St. Paul made his undeserved experience of God’s salvation on the way to Damascus and preached it, Isaiah tells us that, out of compassion for the spirit of man, which might grow faint because of God’s anger, God also extended the kindness of an unmerited pardon and forgiveness to the sinful and backsliding people of Israel (in the Old Testament). God says: “Because of their wicked covetousness I was angry; ....but they kept turning back to their own ways. I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will lead them and repay them with comfort, creating for their mourners the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and to the near, says the Lord: and I will heal them” (Is.57:17-19).

God’s gratuitous pardon restored his covenant relationship with his people; but it also required of his people the corresponding covenant attitude/disposition of contrite hearts and humble spirit. As Isaiah tells us, it is with people of such covenant disposition that God lives (“I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble of spirit”); and their mourning, God also transforms into an experience of the covenant blessing of peace. “I will repay them with comfort, creating for their mourners the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and to the near, say the Lord; and I will heal them.”

Clearly, the healing and comfort of God’s people, and the putting of peace on the lips of mourners, were not the fruit of the “ways” of the people of Israel in the days of Isaiah, for they were wicked. These were rather covenant blessings of God, gratuitously offered to the contrite and humble of heart.

These covenant blessings (healing, comfort and peace) which God gratuitously bestowed on the contrite and humble of heart in the days of Isaiah, are presented in the Gospels as the blessings of the Reign of God. They are the blessedness and happiness of the Reign of God, which Christ offers to his disciples in the Beatitudes of today’s Gospel Reading (Lk.6:20-23a); and there, in the Beatitudes, the poor, the hungry, the mourning and the persecuted, like the contrite and humble of heart in the Old Testament, are the most disposed and open to receive the better gifts of God: the blessedness of the Reign of God.

The Beatitudes describe various ways in which eternal peace and happiness can and are meant to be anticipated already here on earth; but they also describe the conditions under which this is possible. First and foremost, Jesus teaches his disciples that the blessings of the Reign of God are not what normally go for blessings and happiness in the world. While the world looks for wealth, joy, satisfaction and popularity as signs of happiness, Jesus invites his disciples to be those for whom these temporal rewards and goals fail to satisfy.

Thus, for wealth, Jesus teaches poverty. For joy, he teaches mourning. For satisfaction, he teaches hunger. And for popularity, he teaches being hated, exclusion and defamation. At the end of the day, if Jesus teaches that true blessedness lies in these antitheses/opposites to the popularly recognized forms and goals of happiness, it is neither to deny peace and happiness in this world, nor to put their experience on earth in the here and now, beyond the reach of man. It is rather to draw attention to the words of Jesus that he gives peace not as the world gives it. Accordingly, it is also to draw attention to the attitude and disposition with which man pursues true peace and happiness on earth. It is with the attitude of the “contrite of heart and humble of spirit” of the Old Testament; and it is with the attitude of the disciple of Jesus in the New Testament. It is in recognition that true peace and happiness are beyond the ways of sinful humanity. Their presence, then, must be a favour, undeserved, but gratuitously bestowed out of love by Him, who does not deal with us as our sins require.

Gathered, then, in these parts of Japan in these past ten days, to celebrate the yearning of human hearts for peace and happiness, let us recall that true peace and happiness are gifts of God which have been promised to us, and which we now celebrate in this Eucharist. Let us also, outside this Eucharist, ceaselessly seek peace in prayer, and assiduously work for it in laboratories of love (1Jn.3:14ff.), in imitation of Him, in whose love is our peace!