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Blessed are the Peacemakers

He that is angry without cause, shall be in danger; but he that is angry with cause, shall not be in danger.[1] St. John Chrysostom

Anger is one of the Seven Deadly Sins but not all anger is a sin. Anger is an emotion and emotions by themselves are not sinful or virtuous. An emotion will cease or flourish only at the discretion of the will. Peter Kreeft in his book Growing in Virtue offers this distinction between the two…

The commonest way in which the will comes in to make an emotion sinful or virtuous is by consent, which is basically the will’s approval or go-ahead to an emotion…What makes the emotion of anger into the sin of anger are two things. First, as we have seen, there must be the involvement of the will. Second, the anger must be inordinate, this is, wrong, irrational, too strong for the occasion or the person we are angry at.[2]

Meekness, gentleness, and patience are virtues that “steer us away from the cliff”[3] of sinful anger. The two Beatitudes of meekness and peacemaking confront the deadly sin of anger:

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

Meekness is the first Beatitude used to confront the sin of anger. It is often associated with weakness but this is in error. “The essence of meekness,” says Kreeft, “is not to cause harm.”[4] Meekness is selflessness in submission to God, not the world. Jesus is our model of meekness, an inner strength that can withstand unjust persecution in submission to the Father’s will.

Meekness is also “an aspect of humility, the first and prerequisite virtue, the alternative to the first and deadliest sin, pride,”[5] says Kreeft. Jesus said, “I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29 NAB). “Remember, this is the man who turned the world upside down, the man that the world had to either crucify or worship.”[6] Meekness is standing up for all that is just, righteous, and good, in spite of opposition even to the point of death. Meekness does not cave when the going gets tough.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

The second Beatitude that confronts the sin of anger is peacemaking. Peace is elusive in our world today. So many lack inner peace and as a result, we lack peace in our culture. Kreeft describes peace as “another word for God.”[7] Is it any surprise that in a culture that has eclipsed God, that we lack peace? Kreeft quotes Thomas Merton, who said “We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.”[8]

We will experience peace to the extent that we know God. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you” (Jn 14:27). The peace that Jesus is speaking of is šālôm, a Hebrew word meaning not just peace, but also harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare, and tranquility. This is divine blessing! Peace is only possible through a living relationship with the source of peace, Jesus Christ.

Throughout this study on virtue, we have seen that the Beatitudes point us to Jesus Christ. His life and death epitomize the Beatitudes. Peacemaking is the way of winning souls for Christ. “Spread the good infection of Christ, by word and deed of love,” says Kreeft, “and if enough of us cast votes for peace every day, we will be blessed with it.”[9]

Imagine what our world could be if we first lived out this concept in our marriages and families. This is a stronger force than any virus. By being peacemakers, we can change our neighborhoods, cities, countries, and the world. St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “Whenever you share love with others, you’ll notice the peace that comes to you and to them.” Love, peace, and joy are contagious. Be the germ that changes the world!

This is the seventh installment in our Lenten series on virtue. The previous reflections can be found at the links below:

Living Virtue Well in Our Marriages and Families

The Cardinal Virtues

The Beatitudes Confront the Seven Deadly Sins

Confronting Pride

Confronting Avarice

Confronting Envy

[1] St. John Chrysostom, Homily XI, Opus Imperfectum, quoted by Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologiae, Second Part of the Second Part: Question 158; internet: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3158.htm (accessed March 25, 2020).

[2] Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 133.

[3] Ibid., 138.

[4] Ibid., 140.

[5] Ibid., 142.

[6] Ibid., 143.

[7] Ibid., 146.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., 151.