The University of San Francisco: Office of the President
Fr. Privett in Burundi 150

Prayers and Homilies by the President: Mass for Peace

February 13, 2003 | St. Ignatius Church

This liturgy is an important occasion for us. It is a moment to mute the rhetoric of war that permeates our media; an opportunity to pause and reflect on what God asks of us at this perilous moment. We gather today in the presence of God, who blesses the meek, not those who aggressively pursue self-interest; who comforts those in mourning, not those who wage wars that plunge whole nations into suffering and sorrow; who works through our hunger and thirst for justice, never through our desires for vengeance or revenge; who embraces the merciful, not those who take eye for eye and tooth for tooth; finally, and most importantly for us today, the God who blesses those who make peace, not those who wage war. Let there be no doubt: God blesses peace, never war.

How many times these past weeks have I been stopped on stairways and on campus by persons who echo my own dismay and frustration at our government’s apparent determination to wage war against Iraq? Dismay gives way to discouragement and anger as we watch our leaders dismiss legitimate dissent, thoughtful objections and alternatives to war with inflammatory rhetoric that reflects a disdain for those who disagree and an apparent refusal to entertain options other than war.

The madness that appears to be extending its grip our world is aptly captured by this poem:

And so
the world, it seems
has become nothing more
than a brightly hung piñata

small boys with long sticks
swatting and batting
at it from every direction.

Not blindfolded exactly
but blind in the most
essential way. They do not,
will not see what they are doing.

What carnage will fly out
of the donkey once its
legs are broken? There will
not be prettily wrapped candies
and glittering strands of colored beads

like those that are gathered
up during Mardi Gras. No.
Nothing like that at all.
There will be limbs and bones
and great quantities of blood
washing the world red.

Fury, I suppose is red.
If emotions have color, I
picture fury to be red. There
seems to be so much fury these days.

And so little wisdom. So little
thought. Wisdom, I suppose,
is a very pale color – one that is
hardly seen. Unnoticed really.
Not considered. It doesn’t stand out.

Stand up. It sits quietly in the
corner waiting to be chosen.
Waiting for a small boy to put
down his stick. Waiting. Still waiting.

Is it enough for us to wait for the small boys to put down their sticks? I think not. So today we join our voices to those of Pope John Paul II and the US Catholic Bishops in asserting that there is no moral basis, at this point, for war against Iraq. We join our voices with concerned persons across the globe in urging our leaders to step back from the brink of war and seriously explore other ways to eliminate the threat Saddam Hussein poses to world order.

We pray today for peace. We pray that God spare us the nightmare of war by inspiring us with the age old dream of the prophet. The dream of a world where swords are shaped into ploughs, spears into pruning hooks and nations are not trained to make war; where sick children, in Iraq and in our own country, have the best possible medical care. The dream of a world with schools and jobs and parks and hospitals and food for the hungry; of a world slowly and painfully learning to resolve its conflicts without resorting to war.
Our challenge, the challenge of the gospel and the will of God, is that we work to make that dream real. The time that we feel our voice makes no difference is the time to speak out anyway – write another letter, make another phone call, send another email, stand in another vigil. Let our prayer today inform our choices and actions in the days ahead.

May we and our nation experience the blessings God bestows upon the meek, the merciful, the justice seekers and the peace makers. Let us stand today and forever with the God who blesses peace, never war.