Pray for Peace — 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

I have a friend… let’s call her Kelly. Kelly works for a private company that does high-tech, scientific analysis for its clients. Most of this work is connected to criminal cases, examining and testing physical evidence on behalf of the prosecution or defense, but sometimes they also do sensitive work for the federal government, work about which Kelly shares no details. Kelly also wants to enter into religious life and become a nun. It’s a vocation she has considered for many years, and her job has only intensified her certainty of that calling.

You see, her work has shown her that if people want to do great evil in our world they would not seem to lack the opportunity. The technology and resources are out there; all that is needed is the malevolent will to use them. Kelly sees that our world is not preserved from self-annihilation by law enforcement, militaries, or government agencies alone. Just as important as these is the work of the spiritual battle which is invisibly waged amongst angels and demons and souls and whose primary battlefield is humanities’ hearts and minds. All of the peacekeepers and diplomats in the world cannot achieve peace, unless peace first wins its victory within the human soul. This peace is won through prayer.

In July of 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children near a Portuguese town called Fatima. While the First World War was still raging, Mary told them, “The war is going to end. But if people do not stop offending God, another, even worse one will begin in the reign of Pius XI.” (At that time, the pope was Benedict XV.) “To prevent it,” Mary said, “I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays. If people attend to my requests, Russia will be converted and the world will have peace. If not, she will scatter her errors throughout the world, provoking wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be destroyed.” Russia at that time was a war-devastated nation, poor and militarily weak. It was unclear what sort of “errors” they could spread. Four months later, the Communists came to power in the November Revolution. Mary’s call for prayer and conversion was not heeded and the worse war Mary which spoke of did come to pass; this was the Second World War.

Mary told the children, “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me; it will be converted, and a certain period of peace will be granted to the world.” I think many people here of a certain generation will remember having prayed for the conversion of Russia, and it came to pass. The Cold War ended not with the explosions of a thousand suns, nor with a thousand years of darkness, but peacefully with a new dawn of freedom. It was a miracle which no one saw coming, but a miracle for the whole world to see.

Despite the present conflicts around the world, we seem to be now living in that “certain period of peace” of which Mary spoke, but for how long will it last? That depends, in part, on us. We must offer prayers of intercession for the world, even for our present enemies, for there to be lasting peace.

In our first reading, did God really want to annihilate His people for their sins before Moses interceded for them? God said to Moses “Let me alone… that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them.” But what was really holding the Lord back from punishing them instantly? Nothing really. In saying, “Let me alone,” the Lord prompts and gives Moses the opportunity to be their intercessor. In this, Moses prefigures Christ, who intercedes to save all sinners. God calls us to pray for sinners, too.

In the second reading St. Paul tells us, “This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  Of these I am the foremost.” He says, “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant, but I have been mercifully treated…” Paul was shown mercy, saw the light and converted to Christ. This happened in part because the Church was praying for him. He was one of the most feared and notorious persecutors of the early Christians. He was their enemy, but the Church had not forgotten Jesus’ words, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

The early Church’s prayers converted one of their greatest enemies. Moses’ intercession preserved the welfare of his nation. And the prayers of Mary and her children converted a misled people, and saved the world from destruction. The power of prayer has not diminished with time. It can still win our enemies for Christ, safeguard and bless our nation, and convert distant and misled peoples. The Lord calls us to pray for our enemies, for our nation and for our world, because as much as anything else, lasting peace depends on our prayers.

 [See the image I had to resist using to illustrate this post.]

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