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Who Is Our Peace? + A Reflection on the State of the World Now

by Fr. George Shalhoub of the Basilica of St. Mary in Livonia, Michigan
A sermon delivered Sunday, November 15, 2015, in the wake of the terror attacks in Beirut and Paris

Beloved,

In the light of the constant atrocities, murder, suicide bombings, the war ravaging the world today, I wish to share with you the following:

As we enter the Holy Advent Season, we shall also gather, as families, to celebrate Thanksgiving in the midst of a world gone mad. We need to keep our eyes open through prayer to Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, for the salvation of the world.

Christmas and Thanksgiving, without prayer and spiritual preparation can defeat our purpose, be lost with all the noise, drowned by music and decorations and we will then enter into the same chaos the world offers us. Therefore, we miss out on the Feast to behold the Prince of Peace.

As Orthodox Christians living in this world, along with other people, we cannot help but feel a sense of violence, not only in our backyards with murders and rape taking place in the major cities of America and throughout the world especially in Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Iraq and two days ago, Paris.

As your pastor, to help lessen the anxiety at home, I recommend limiting our time watching TV, hearing the news, and reading about the tragedies online. The question is - who is our peace and who shall provide us real peace?

St. Paul stated in his Gospel that “Christ is our peace” (Ep. 2:14) and “He came to preach peace.” “He is the cornerstone for the foundation” of society, families and communities.

As we heard about the series of terrorist attacks committed in downtown Paris, France, we have not yet healed from the Beirut bombing and the downing of the Russian plane in Egypt, the tragedy of violence in Syria, the last 5 years, the destruction that has taken place in Iraq the last 10 years or the war in Palestine and Israel that last 65 years. All of these atrocities against man echoes with deep sorrow in our hearts. Hundreds of people have been killed or wounded and one million have become refugees on the road to Europe. Yet, we as Orthodox Christians must remain steadfast in our faith to say, “Christ is our peace.”

Peace is in the name of God and peace must come with justice. If we practice justice, we practice love. For no justice violates the life of the innocent. We read in the Book of Jeremiah, "They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace." (6:14)

So in the midst of this chaos, many of us feel helpless, uncertain and facing their children's fear. We must lean on our Lord's promise to "be with us until the end of time" (Matthew 28:20) , a time of peace, tribulation, distress and war. Today, we stand in solidarity and in pain, with all the suffering people in the world, despite their religion, ethnicity or color, because the French's innocent blood is precious also in the eyes of every mother and father who have lost their son to violence, whether in Detroit, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt or Iraq.

So, we must state what has been taught to us from the beginning of time, "For I am certain that nothing can separate us from His love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below – there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

Beloved, our language, as Christians, is a language of peace, even though terrorism brings great distress which crushes people's lives and seeks to sow fear. We must stand in its way and we must not only make resolutions, but solutions. We cannot stand to be indifferent, when our Lord said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27) The peace our Lord gives us isn't about what is going on around us. It is about what is going on in us.

"Christ is our peace," even in the midst of war. All people deserve justice and peace; for true peace of men and women can cast away fear. As the Gospel says, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love takes away fear." (I John 4:18)

Keep in mind that the media is very prejudiced. We are to pray for all people. Christ taught us to pray for peace in the home, church and the world, and if we seek the Lord, His love will save the world.

As I delivered these thoughts to you, our church, through the efforts of Nick and Donna Maloof, filled two truckloads of clothing and supplies to 200 Syrian Muslim refugees. This is where our duty comes to help, because help is blind and does not know color or religion, so we wish to thank every family who participated.