The Gospel of St. Matthew 5:9 is the seventh verse of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and the seventh of what are known by Orthodox Catholic Christians as the Beatitudes (Блаженны, Заповеди Блаженства): “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” In Slavic Orthodox churches, the Beatitudes form the third antiphon of the Divine Liturgy and are chanted when the Book of the Gospels is carried in solemn procession to the sanctuary to be proclaimed as the Word of God to the faithful. Why? Because the Beatitudes are a short summary of the Gospel. These few verses describe a kind of ladder to heaven, starting with poverty of spirit and ascending to readiness to suffer for Christ and at last participation in the Paschal joy of Christ. Near the top we come to the words: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Peace is one of the essential characteristics of the Kingdom of God. Peace is more than simply the absence of war or strife. Peace is a positive thing. It means not just the absence of war, but the presence of something special, a wholeness, a feeling and an attitude of absolute well-being. The followers of Jesus have been called to peace. When he called them, they found their peace, for he is their peace. But now they are told that they must not only have peace but make it. “Peacemaking” is an action word, implying that a Christian is to be busy making peace in this world. In the cause of Christ nothing is to be gained by violence and tumult. Christ’s kingdom is one of peace, and the mutual greeting of his flock is a greeting of peace.
Jesus’ disciples keep the peace by choosing to endure suffering themselves rather than inflict it on others. They maintain fellowships where others would break it off. They renounce all self-assertion, and quietly suffer in the face of hatred and wrong. In so doing, they overcome evil with good and establish the peace of God in the midst of a world of war and hate. But nowhere will that peace be more manifest than where they meet the wicked in peace and are ready to suffer at their hands. The peacemakers will carry the cross of their Lord, for it was on the cross that peace was made. Now that they are partners in Christ’s work of reconciliation, they are called the children of God as Jesus is the Son of God. This promise–to be called “a child of God”–is perhaps the most significant of all, where one’s life demonstrates the characteristics of God. To be so involved in the lives of others, leading them into peaceful relationships with God and neighbor, that one is seen as doing a Godlike work is most certainly the greatest tribute which can be made to our heavenly Creator.
So who is a peacemaker? A “peacemaker” is one who seeks to bring harmony and reconciliation between those who are estranged. Peacemaking seeks to produce right relationships between persons. This is a person who “gives peace to another.” Being a peacemaker is part of being surrendered to God, for God brings peace. We abandon the effort to get our needs met through the destruction of enemies. God comes to us in Christ to make peace with us; and we participate in God’s grace as we go to our enemies to make peace. To be able to give peace to another you must first have peace in yourself. Only children of God can bring the peace of knowing God to others.
“Let the sowers of strife hear what is written: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.’ On the other hand, let them recognize that if those who make peace are called the ‘children of God’, then those who confound it are the ‘children of Satan’. Moreover, all those who separate themselves, through discord, from the lifeline of love will wither and die. Therefore, let the sowers of strife consider the extent to which they sin. For when they perpetuate this particular sin, they also eradicate every virtue that they may have in their heart. For in this one evil, they beget many others, because by sowing strife they extinguish charity, which is the mother of all the virtues. And because nothing is more revered by God than the virtue of charity. Therefore, whoever destroys the charity of his neighbor by sowing strife acts as though he were in the service of God’s enemy. For he takes from their hearts this very virtue, which the devil lost before his fall, and he cuts them off from the path by which they might return.”
This season of the Great Fast is an excellent time to ask ourselves: “Are we about the business of peacemaking?“ And… please let your peacemaking begin by offering daily prayers for peace in Ukraine and in other troubled regions of the world.