Peace I bequeath to you,
my own peace I give you,
a peace the world cannot give,
this is my gift to you.
The beautiful words of Jesus, the beautiful reality of the Peace He brings into our disturbed and troubled lives.
A central part of my calling, a core part of who I am as a person is to be a man of peace, to bring peace into people’s lives, to create an atmosphere of peace. In this I know I am faithful to the gift that God has given me, a gift that is not for myself primarily but for others.
But there are times when Peace is not what God is giving. Jesus speaks these troubling words in Matthew 10:32 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword”
Some years ago I was having a troubled, sleepless night, feeling in myself a distress that was not simply mine but was bigger and beyond me. I struggled for a few hours before getting out of bed to pray and to read the Bible, hoping that this would bring relief and peace.
But I was in for a surprise because the Word that I found was from Ezekiel 13:10 “They have misled my people, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace.” The message is that we should not go after a false peace or preach a false peace, a peace that God has not sent; there are times when what is needed is disturbance rather than what we call peace.
We are in such a time now, a time for being disturbed because of the unjust and immoral law that our government is determined to pass through the ‘Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013’. We cannot have the luxury of Peace when it will be “legal” to directly and intentionally kill a child in the womb.
The Labour TD Anne Ferris points out rightly that the Church cannot take the high moral ground when it “had to be dragged kicking and screaming to admit what some men of the cloth did to children for many years…”. But the crimes of the Church do not give anyone the right to kill a child.
She also rightly says “If Jesus Christ were on this Earth today he wouldn’t be turning a blind eye to the injustice that women have to go through.” And in this she is expressing a pain that I as a man will never experience but I am also absolutely certain that Jesus would not turn a blind eye to the threat to its life that the child in the womb will face in the future Ireland. He will not turn a blind eye to the unnecessary death or intentional killing of a child.
I have felt for a long time now that we as a country are sleepwalking into the future, that we have been manipulated into a numbness in which we have surrendered our lives into the control of a government that is completely disconnected from God in the decisions it is making on our behalf.
Will anything shock us into paying attention to what is happening; do any of us really understand or feel what the reality of abortion will mean for the individual, voiceless and most vulnerable person in our society? Do we really care at all?
On Facebook the other day a friend posted a photograph of an aborted baby. It has shaken me and I deserve to be shaken. As a priest I have been called to bless babies in incubators who are the same size as the dead child in the photograph. Some people are offended by this photograph. Most people find in very – even impossible – to look at.
The Song of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53) came to mind when I saw this photo. The Servant is so brutally disfigured and people are so appalled that they cannot watch - "one from whom as it were we averted our gaze" - and yet as Christians we have to look at reality head on, not looking away from what is so shockingly unpleasant. We have to "look on Him whom they have pierced" - in looking at the photo above we are looking at Christ himself.
Another thought that comes to mind now, the words of Jesus in The Last Judgement from Matthew 25 "whatever you did to one of the least of these you did to me."
And for most of us the more disturbing conclusion of Jesus might be "whatever you neglected to do for the least of these, you neglected to do to me"
As well as consequences for society there are personal consequences attached to whichever choice we make - whether it be our action or our neglect.
Another disturbing aspect of what our government are doing is the disregard they have for the right of conscience - TD's will not be allowed vote according to their conscience, Catholic hospitals will be forced to carry out abortions. And the man leading this is not a socialist without faith but one who has professed himself to be Catholic. He is a leader I have defended; his is the party I have voted for all my adult life and I am bitterly disillusioned.
And in the end I have to come back again to my beloved Jesus, though I have to confess that with Him too I felt desolate the other morning, feeling like Martha who said "Lord if you had been here...." this would not have happened. But I also have to go the distance with Martha who went on to say "but even now I know that whatever you ask of God will be granted."
This is a link to the photograph of an aborted baby. You don’t have you look at it but somehow I pray that you have the courage to see the reality. It should not be shown to children.