April, 2016

Dear Friends,
I’m in London, giving several talks around town and speaking as well at the Thomas Merton conference in Oakham, where Merton went to high school, before traveling to Rome to attend the first ever conference on nonviolence at the Vatican. It’s hopeful and exciting!

Here in London, I met many long time peace activists and friends who have shared with me their work and struggles, and it has convinced me all the more that we must keep on keeping on, doing what we can for peace and justice, by speaking out, joining groups, helping the movements, contributing what we can, and agitating for a more nonviolent world. We can’t afford the luxury of sitting back, doing nothing, or giving up.

In my “Living Nonviolence” webinar, some people have shared their despair, how they want to give up because the country is crazy, the world is so violent, and it’s just too darn hard to make a difference. I’ve been encouraging everyone to keep at it, to carry on with the life and work of peace, to help the various movements like Campaign Nonviolence, to stay on course and to trust in the God of peace that grassroots movements of nonviolence really are the way to social change.

We have so many stories and lessons to go by, so many movements and history books that prove how peace works, so many saints and peacemakers who have gone before us, that we have to carry on, no matter what, even in the face of doubt, despair and darkness. Each one of us is needed. Each one of us makes a difference. We are called to be people of active nonviolence, peacemakers in a world of war, to do what we can, even if we have no idea of the outcome.

But it’s Easter! And with the resurrection of the nonviolent Jesus, we have new hope, and new confidence that death does not get the last word. Jesus comes back, offers us his gift of peace, makes breakfast for his friends, and then sends us out to live his life of active nonviolence in the world of violence, to be his agents of change, to announce the coming of God’s kingdom of nonviolence. We are people on a mission of peace and nonviolence, and the most important thing is to complete our mission for Jesus.

I have known so many people who have died, and I often wonder about life, death and resurrection. A priest friend who was a university professor, who died recently, once told me that at the end of every class, he encouraged his students to imagine the day of their death, and what they would say as they stood before the risen Jesus. When he asks you “What you did with your life,” what are you going to say?” He told his students not to wait until then, but to think that answer through now and start living the life we want to offer to Jesus. Beautiful!

It makes me think: given the terrible violence, wars, starvation, nuclear weapons and environmental destruction in the world, what can we do with the short time we have left on earth, from this day until the day we die, to serve Jesus’ mission, to proclaim God’s reign of nonviolence, to help disarm the world and promote justice and peace? What is the best use of our time, our energy, our lives? How can we be a force for love, compassion, nonviolence and peace?

These are great questions for our prayer. In this Easter season, I encourage everyone to join me in welcoming the risen Jesus’ gift of peace, and to say YES all over again to his mission of peace.

May we all become people of resurrection peace and fulfill our mission. God bless you,

–Fr. John