The following is the text of the homily delivered by Bishop Rhoades on Aug. 27 at Queen of Peace Parish, Mishawaka, at the parish’s annual celebration, Peacefest:
It was 100 years ago this year, in 1917, when World War I was raging, that Pope Benedict XV added to the Litany of Loreto, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the title and invocation “Queen of Peace.” This Pope of Peace desired that the Catholics of the world pray through Mary’s intercession as Queen of Peace for an end to the devastating world war. Forty years later, Bishop Pursley, in 1957, announced the founding of this parish under the beautiful title, Queen of Peace.
Today we celebrate your feast day and we invoke Our Lady as Queen of Peace to pray for us and for the world, for peace in our lives, our families, our communities, our nation, and our world. There is so much violence, terrorism, discord, wars and threat of war, in the world today. We need to pray for peace. The Church engages in the battle for peace through prayer since prayer opens the heart not only to a deep relationship with God, but also to an encounter with others marked by respect, understanding, esteem, and love. Prayer instills in us the conviction and courage to be peacemakers, to live the Beatitude of Jesus: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”
It is good to celebrate Mass with you as you conclude the weekend celebration of your annual parish Peacefest. I am glad that we have a parish in our diocese under the title of Our Lady, Queen of Peace.
Peace is a basic attribute of God. It was through sin that the divine order of peace was disrupted. We read in the book of Genesis, soon after the original sin, the story of Cain killing Abel. Violence made its appearance in the world. The world experienced the shedding of blood and division. Later in the Old Testament, we read of the great promise of peace associated with the coming of the Messiah, whom Isaiah calls the Prince of Peace, as we heard in the first reading today.
In the Gospel of the Annunciation, we heard the great announcement of the archangel Gabriel to Mary that she would conceive and bear a son, the Son of the Most High. Gabriel told Mary that the Lord God would give her son “the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” The Kingdom of her Son, the kingdom of the Messiah, is precisely the kingdom of peace. Jesus is our peace. He came and broke down the dividing wall of hostility among people, reconciling them with God. Jesus gave us the gift of peace, which is first of all reconciliation with the Father, and then reconciliation with our neighbors, our brothers and sisters throughout the world. He calls us to be peacemakers. Working for peace is part of His Gospel.
Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is the fruit of justice and love. We are all responsible for promoting peace: in our families and communities and in the world. Peace must first be deeply rooted in each of our hearts and then it spreads to our families and others. An authentic culture of peace can only grow in the world when there is respect for justice and when there is love in people’s hearts. Sadly, a couple weeks ago, we witnessed the opposite in the events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Hatred in people’s hearts leads to violence. In the world in recent times, it explodes in terrorism. Hatred among peoples leads to war. War is a failure of peace. As St. John Paul II once said, “war is always a defeat for humanity.”
It is good to remember today in our prayers the men and women of our armed forces. Legitimate defense justifies the existence of the military. They defend the security and freedom of our country, thus making an authentic contribution to peace. The brave men and women of our armed forces are called not to make war but to defend good, truth, and justice in the world. They are called to defend innocent lives and to defend our nation from acts of aggression.
It is also good today to pray for refugees, innocent people forced by war and violence to flee their homes and to seek refuge elsewhere. The Church is close to them. We must be committed to defend their human dignity and to encourage respect for their rights. We are called to be open to welcoming refugees, as Pope Francis so frequently reminds us. Here in our own diocese, I am so proud of our own Catholic Charities and its work in resettling refugees.
Here at Queen of Peace Parish, I call upon you and all the people of our diocese to recognize that the promotion of peace is an integral part of the Church’s mission of continuing Christ’s work of redemption on earth. In fact, the Church is, in Christ, a sacrament or sign and instrument of peace in the world and for the world, as St. John Paul once said. The promotion of peace is an expression of our Christian faith in the love that God has for every human being. In the popular prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, we pray: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.” That’s our mission as disciples of Jesus. It is the mission of this parish and every Catholic parish. And we ask Mary, the Queen of Peace, to help us to live this mission entrusted to us by her Son.
At the end of the Gospel of the Annunciation, Mary said to the angel Gabriel: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” The Queen of Peace is the one who wishes to serve, who wishes to serve the reconciliation and peace which Christ her Son brings to the world. The Mother of the Prince of Peace desires to serve and to intercede so that the peace of her Son will reign in our lives and in our world. And so we invoke Mary under this title which Pope Benedict XV added to her titles 100 years ago: Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us! Intercede with your Son, O Queen of Peace, for the gift of peace throughout the world, the peace our world so desperately needs!
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