As a child of 6 or 7, I remember hearing read in church the ‘sermon on the mount’ (Jesus saying ‘”Blessed is this kind of person and blessed are those people…” and thinking about which of the categories I would fit into as I went through life: I wanted most of all to be one of the peacemakers; they were to be called the children of God.
Later on (around 9 or 10, I guess) I read in the bible that some people are given gifts of healing and so I then desperately wanted to be given that gift. Why, at that age I wasn’t sure but looking back it feels like it was again a desire for recognition and approval. Anyway I wanted to be a peacemaker and a healer, to be wanted and needed and loved.
So it will no doubt come as no surprise that all through my life since that time, in every job I have done, it’s been the exact opposite. I’ve learned, slowly and painfully [because I’m a painfully slow learner], about what healing and peace are really about. All my adult life seems to have been about experiencing the exact opposite of peace and healing: my own inner chaos and doubt; my own dis-eases and weaknesses and vulnerabilities – feeling somehow not entitled to the peace and health of an integrated life. In other words, my own need for healing and peace.
Another thing I learned is that peace-making and healing aren’t things that I always do myself. In fact the deepest kind of inner healing, and the kind of peace that is not just peace of mind but the peace that extends to the depths of your very soul, this healing and peace, I’ve discovered, are gifts of God – and sometimes other people. Often uncomfortable and sometimes painful gifts, true – they arise out of the cauldron of life’s events and experiences and mistakes and misunderstandings and most of all it seems to me, through life’s wounds, sometimes cruel undeserved wounds at the hands of others, sometimes self-inflicted wounds like misplaced guilt or our determination to nurture our hurt or our rage and sometimes even our selfish motives and intentions – cue St James and St John in today’s gospel reading!
James and John want to be given the honour of sitting next to Jesus in Heaven. And in the ensuing heated discussion among the other disciples- evidently about who’s going to be at the top, who’s going to have power and status and so on… Jesus eventually shuts them all up with:
“Whoever wishes to become great among you must become your servant … and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all… because I came not to be served… but to serve… and to give my life… as a ransom for many.”
His crucifixion – his death on the cross was the supreme gift: he gives himself, unconditionally, as the ultimate example of what God is like – that is of course, total, unconditional love.
Jesus Christ comes, as he always has and always does – to give. To give as he always does, selflessly, sacrificially and unconditionally – the love of God in person, showing us in everything he says and does, firstly how much God loves us, and secondly how we ought to live… being bearers of that same selfless, sacrificial and unconditional love. The point being that the sacrificial giving that found its zenith, its ultimate expression on the cross, became the very means of resurrection – new life beyond death – healing and peace like no other, given to us as a free gift.
Looking back at myself as a child, I remember now that wanting to be peacemaker was also partly to do with the thing about becoming a child of God (Blessed are the peacemakers, they will be called children of God) and I realise that this bit is about relationship – relationship to God was something I certainly didn’t understand but I seem to have intuitively been attracted to it in some way. And today I know this much – that the real peace and healing we all seek in life has something to do with this relationship with God. With the people in the gospels who Jesus healed, there was an exchange of some sort – he touched something in them or vice-versa … there’s something about healing and peace that seems to need a relational dimension, an interaction of some sort.
For us Christians that relational aspect finds its expression in prayer – not just prayers of asking and thanking, good and proper though they are but our deepest prayers are like the communication in our most meaningful human relationships – those times of being with, getting to know, telling the other how we feel, opening the door of our lives and hearts and sharing our inner selves … when we do that with God we call it ‘Contemplative prayer’, a way of deepening our relationship with God and experiencing the unconditional love of the God who gives and goes on giving…
As a child I wanted to grow up being seen to be a healer and a peacemaker and for a long time, a bit like James and John wanting to book their place at the top table, I wanted to get the gift of healing and I wanted get to be a peacemaker – because I wanted, deep down, to get healing and peace. For those of us who are striving to ‘get’ things now, perhaps for a way forward in life; for some meaning that life has yet to reveal to us; some idea of our true selves as yet undisclosed; some way of being acknowledged, accepted, or maybe for an understanding of the things that have happened in life so far here is a reminder that the answer lies in understanding that these things come not by our desire to get, but by our willingness to give – and to be given, both the true attributes of the healer and the peacemaker.