Throughout human history, peace has been elusive. Often peace has been destroyed and wars have been started due to the ambition of people who want ultimate power. An industrial complex has supported the ambitions of those leaders who seek power through means of war. One of those industrialists was Alfred Nobel, yes, the man for whom the Nobel Peace Prize is named after. Nobel was a Swedish industrialist and chemist. He invented dynamite in the mid-19th century. Like so many weapons of war, dynamite also had a peaceful use in construction. But it was not always put to that use. Nobel, a year before he died, changed his will and endowed five prizes through the wealth he amassed from the manufacturing of dynamite. One of those prizes was the Nobel Peace Prize, which was established and awarded for the first time in 1901. But as we have learned in the 121 years since the peace prize was created, there have been two World Wars, numerous regional wars and countless civil wars.

War rages once again as we have the war in Ukraine, which risks being spread to other European countries. Even Sweden, the home country of the Nobel Peace Prize, is considering its ability to remain neutral with such threats of war close to its borders. Not even awarding a peace prize can assure peace in the world. Peace is elusive when we are not seeking the peace of God. If only all the nations would praise God as Psalm 67 proclaims, “May he let his face shine upon us. So may your way be known upon earth; among all nations, your salvation. (Ps. 67:2-3) God offers salvation even to the nations that are aggressors in war in hopes that they will turn away from war and seek peace. “May the people praise you O God; may all the people praise you!” (Ps. 67:6-8)

It was Pope Paul VI who helped us understand what we truly need to do to attain lasting peace. On celebrating World Day of Prayer for Peace on New Year’s Day, 1972, Pope Paul VI spoke those famous words that tell us how to achieve lasting peace. He said, “If you want peace, work for justice.” We hear in the Gospel for the Sixth Sunday of Easter from John 14:23-29, Jesus tells his disciples, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him.” (John 14:23) What is the word that Jesus is referring to? Jesus says, “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.” (John 14:24) The words Jesus gives are words of peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” (John 14:27)

How can true and lasting peace be achieved? Jesus provides that for us as well, “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything.” (John 14: 25-26) The Holy Spirit imparts all knowledge and wisdom which are gifts of the Spirit. Those gifts bring forth the fruits of the Spirit; peace is one of those fruits of the Spirit. The reason we can achieve lasting peace is because Jesus sends the Holy Spirit which provides us the presence of Jesus even after Jesus returned to the Father when he ascended.

Paul and Barnabas are a perfect example of what it truly means to achieve peace by working for justice. There was a controversy among the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians which had disrupted the Church. There were some of the Jewish Christians who felt that the Gentiles first had to become Jews before they could become Christians. This created an undue burden on the Gentiles who wanted to become Christians. Paul felt this was unjust and he went to Jerusalem to voice his opposition. The Church in Jerusalem agreed with Paul, “We are sending Judas and Silas who will also convey this same message by word of mouth: It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us.” (Acts 15:29) The meeting that took place in 49 A.D. became known as the Council of Jerusalem, which was the first Ecumenical Council of the Church. They made their decision as the body of Christ to lead by the Holy Spirit.

How then do we establish the peace of God? By building up God’s kingdom on earth. The Book of Revelations gives us a glimpse of that future promise, “The angel took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendor of God.” (Rev. 21:10-14, 22-23) God’s holy city, Jerusalem, is the city of peace and the kingdom called to establish on earth is a holy city of peace and justice through the power of the Holy Spirit. As we establish God’s kingdom on earth, we prepare ourselves for God’s eternal kingdom, the new Jerusalem. We have been given the peace of Jesus which enables us to seek a lasting peace, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” (Jn. 14:27)