Praying for peace in our community

On January 9, 2015, the Gates community was invited to show its support for the area law enforcement personnel and their ongoing efforts to maintain a positive and beneficial rapport with the community. On that same morning, I was privileged to offer holy Mass for these women and men at 8 a.m., in the chapel of our Diocesan Pastoral Center. I now share with you the reflections I offered that day in my homily, with the hope that we all become the Lord’s instruments in creating unity and peace in our cities, neighborhoods, communities and parishes.

In today’s Gospel taken from the fifth chapter of the Gospel according to the evangelist, St. Luke, verses 12-16, we are told that "great crowds assembled to listen to Jesus and to be cured of their ailments."

This morning, united as a community of faith, we come to listen to Jesus and we, too, in the words of the Holy Gospel, "plead with him" to cure the social ills and sufferings of our communities. In a particular way, we recognize and pray for our men and women serving in law enforcement. Today, on behalf of you, our dear sisters and brothers, we invoke the intercession of the heavenly hosts, the martyrs and saints, and, in particular, St. Michael the Archangel, Patron of Law Enforcement Personnel, and our Diocesan Patron, St. John Fisher, who now stand before the throne of God. We ask these, our ancestors in the faith, to protect you, to guide you, and to strengthen your love for and hope in humanity, despite the inhumane acts that cross your paths. We ask that you have the courage of St. John Fisher, who always remained God’s servant above all else.

Because of your love of God and love of neighbor, you have devoted and committed yourselves to protecting the citizenry of our state, our communities and our neighborhoods. Recognizing the truth of Jesus Christ that all life is sacred and every person is a child of God, you who serve in law enforcement have dedicated your very lives to assuring that one’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is preserved. Your love for God and for your neighbor is enshrined in your noble profession.

Despite the many challenges that we face in the greater Rochester area and in the State of New York, we are a free people. We enjoy this freedom because of your courageous dedication to assuring that all peoples live in freedom and are respected as the sons and daughters of God. Our Lord, said: "One can have no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends" (John 15:13). Indeed, you place your lives at serious risk so that others might enjoy the benefits of a free society. Your own brother, Daryl R. Pierson of the Rochester Police Department, was so tragically shot and killed on September 3 last. Today we again pray for the repose of his soul; we pray for his beloved wife, Amy, his son, Christian, and daughter, Charity. A husband, a father, a police officer, sacrificed his own life in the performance of his duty. What more could you give to your brothers and sisters than the personal sacrifices you make to defend our communities and to assist those who suffer persecution, violence, prejudices, and ridicule?

Each time you leave your families and homes and a spouse waves goodbye to his or her family, the sacrifices that you make become so very real and far more than words can express. What more could you give, what more could we ask for? To have this opportunity to pray with and for you and your dear families is a privileged moment for the entire community of faith to express its gratitude.

In a few moments, as we enter into the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I will pray to the Lord, beseeching that He grant to us the peace and unity of His heavenly Kingdom. At that moment we recall that on the evening of that first Easter Sunday, Jesus appeared to His disciples and greeted them with the words: "Peace be with you." At this Eucharist, we exchange the sign of peace. Peace is the work and the character of our faith.

Today we pray for you, our sisters and brothers, who labor to bring peace and human rights to places in turmoil. Thinking not of yourselves, but motivated by a desire to help those desperate to know peace and tranquility in their lives, you leave the comfort of your family and friends to serve the cause of human rights. Your selfless gift calls upon all of us to work for peace: peace in our homes, our communities, our state, nation and world. The constant and tragic loss of lives in violence is a mandate to local, national and international leaders to seek peace and justice, to find resolutions that do not destroy God’s precious gift of life.

Love for God, love for family and the human being, love for country all bring you to the challenge of each day, a challenge on some days that seems an almost impossible task. We cannot ignore that love, that devotion, your commitment to secure peace and justice for innocent victims of inhumanity, which laudable efforts, please God, we pray ultimately will pave the way to peace.

In the face of all these challenges, with hope in our hearts, we raise our eyes to the heavens and pray as one family, with those charged with enforcing the law and with all our brothers and sisters in God’s family, with one voice we cry out to the One who said: "Peace be to you!"

We pray also for all our men and women in military service throughout the world who work on our behalf to keep us a free people and who work to make all peoples free.

We pray for all whose lives have been lost in war and beseech the Lord to guide us to era of peace.

We pray for all our brothers and sisters in the family of God, asking the Lord to help all peoples realize that we all belong to Him, that every life is sacred and we have a responsibility to create a world which is a worthy inheritance for our children in the years to come.

My brothers and sisters, not a day goes by that I do not pray for you, thank God for you, pray for your families and pray that you will always return home safely. May God now accompany you every moment of your journey, may God and all the heavenly hosts guard and protect you, bless and guide you and may the Prince of Peace bless our world, these United States of America, this State of New York and the Diocese of Rochester.

We now pray the Prayer for Peace authored by Pope St. John XXIII: "Lord Jesus Christ, who are called the Prince of Peace, who are yourself our peace and reconciliation, who so often said, "Peace to you," grant us peace. Make all men and women witnesses of truth, justice and brotherly love. Banish from their hearts whatever might endanger peace. Enlighten our rulers that they may defend the great gift of peace. May all the peoples of the earth become as brothers and sisters. May longed-for peace blossom forth and reign always over all. Amen."

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