Pax Christi

Message from the Prince of Peace Plowshares to those assembled at Pax Chrsti Maine, Romero Award dinner Tuesday, September 16, 1997

On the evening of the first day of the week, when the doors were locked where the disciples were, out of fear, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." Once he had said this he showed them his hands and his side. [John 20: 19-20]

The peace of Christ, Pax Christi, be with all of you. Pax Christi is another name for the kingdom of God or Shalom, as the Hebrew scriptures described. It is that peace where domination is no more, where injustice is undone, where violence is a relic of the past, where swords have disappeared and plowshares are abundant. It is the peace where all people are treated as sisters and brothers, with respect and dignity, where each life is sacred, and where there is a future for the children. It is such a world that God calls us all to help make a reality.

After conferring peace on his disciples the resurrected Jesus shows them his hands and his side, his wounds from the cross. The cross is the instrument of peace. There is no Pax Christi aside from taking up the cross. In our day, as in Jesus's, the cross is the consequence of confronting institutional evil which victimizes and oppresses entire peoples. The cross means taking the offensive with truth and nonviolently breaking unjust laws which perpetuate official violence. Nuclear weapons, humanity's greatest evil, are our starting point. We begin by breaking the web of laws which preserve these weapons for doomsday. In our country this can mean going to jail, risking reputation, job or income. and even being disowned by family or friends. Yet, amid a criminal state which daily prepares for nuclear holocaust, it truly means freedom, a sense of self and vocation, and a whole new community of friends and family. In fact, it means resurrection. If we only picket, speak, write, and vote against nuclear weapons, we still cooperate with their legality and hence their existence. By breaking the unjust laws protecting them, we actually begin to knock out the underpinnings of an empire which spreads terror, war and poverty worldwide, and to create Pax Christi here and now.

As with the disciples in the locked room, fear never totally abandons us. Yet the exercise of faith is to control fear enough to act against the oppression of the powerful. Pax Christi is not only the end but the means available to help us to keep fear in check, pick up the cross and continue Jesus's noviolent revolution. The more of us who take to the street and refuse to run the country for the benefit of the bosses, and the more we stop obeying their unjust laws, the more we side with God, who passionately sides with terrorized, bombed, starved and violated people. and the less choice the mighty will have but to step down. Then human creativity, skill and energu can be freed up to fulfill the rightful purpose of creation. Weapons can be dismantled and melted down and ways found to share the world's bread.

If the scripture tells us anything, it is that God comes to accomplish the justice awaited by humankind for thousands of years. To break unjust laws is to add our hands to this work, to put our faith in God, and to pick up the cross.

Finally, Pax Christi is among you tonight. Jesus stands in your midst. He offers his peace, shows you his hands and his side, and issues a call for help in building the kindom of justice and peace.

With much love and gratitude for all of you,

Phil Berrigan, Susan Crane, Steve Kelly,
Tom Lewis-Borbely, Mark Colville, and Steve Baggarly