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Let Peace Begin with Me

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” – John 14:27

We desperately need peace today. But do we truly understand the meaning of that word and the roots of it?

In Genesis, Adam and Eve were at peace in the Garden of Eden. Their lives were perfect. All they had to do was follow God’s commands. But, being humans prone to temptation and sin, they could not live up to that standard, and they failed. They lost the peace of the garden.

And so humanity began a downward spiral. But all was not lost; Christ came to redeem us, to restore peace, and to teach us how to attain it. What had been missing for so long was now within reach. Through His words, His teachings, the creation of His Church, and the saints who followed Him, He gave us the roadmap to heaven.

So if we have all these concrete instructions and all these great examples at our fingertips, what’s the problem? Why can’t we attain peace? Why are we so prone to sin? And why do we struggle with building a culture of life where every single person is valued and respected—regardless of age, color, ability, or anything else?

The problem is that, unless we actively work toward it, peace can be elusive.

A true inner peace comes only from Christ. It’s not something we can wake up one day and suddenly feel. We must work toward it through daily prayer and a devotion to our faith.

Understand that peace is different from happiness. Anyone can be happy at any given time. People make us happy. Certainly our families and friends do. And lots of things—from a beautiful, sunny day to an ice cream sundae—can make us happy. But those are feelings, and feelings dissipate. Happiness comes and goes. Inner peace—the peace of Christ—is a state of being. Once attained, it remains with us. Yes, we have to hone it. Yes, we have to nurture it. But Christ’s peace becomes part of our essence.

And once it becomes part of us, it becomes something we cannot hold inside. It cascades outward to others. We can’t help it! This peace of Christ will lead us to treat others with respect and dignity.

No longer will we hate. No longer will we treat people poorly. No longer will we hurt others. Christ’s peace in us allows us to see the world through His eyes. We’ll see people how He sees them—as His beloved and valued children. And when we see people that way, we cannot help but treat them with the dignity they deserve.

“Hurt people hurt people”

In college, my Psychology of Oppression professor taught us that “hurt people hurt people.” In other words, people who have been hurt are the most likely to hurt others—physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It becomes a vicious cycle of anger and hatred.

Peace can never be achieved when hurt people hurt people.

But what happens when we turn that around? It follows that people treated well treat others well. When we offer Christ’s peace to others, they can choose to accept it and offer it to others. We have broken that vicious cycle of hurt and anger.

One of my favorite church songs is “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” Its beautiful lyrics express the necessity of peace in our lives:

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me,
Let this be the moment now.
With ev’ry step I take
Let this be my solemn vow;
To take each moment and live
Each moment in peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.

Peace begins with me. It begins with you. Each of us has a role to play in spreading Christ’s peace to the world.

The prayer that begs for change

In third grade, I was chosen to stand up in front of the school and recite the Peace Prayer of St. Francis. It quickly became one of my favorite prayers because it asks not for material goods, but for something more vital. The prayer asks God to change us, to make us better people, and to do good things for others:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

God is telling us, in no uncertain terms, that peace is an integral part of His plan for our salvation. He tells us in Mass. He tells us in song lyrics. He tells us in the Bible. He tells us in prayer.

It is our obligation to live as instruments of Christ’s peace. With every action. With every word. With everyone.

Our country needs peace right now. The problems we are facing will not be fixed overnight, but Christ’s peace will help us navigate these difficult times. It will get us through.

So, let us all pray for peace—in our homes, in our families, in our country, but most of all within us, for that is how we will effect change.

Christ has given us His roadmap to peace. We need only follow it and say “Let peace begin with me.” Let this be the moment now.

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About the author

Susan Ciancio

Susan Ciancio is an editor for American Life League and lives with her three children in Knoxville, Tennessee.