Last week I wrote about Elias Chacour and his book ‘Blood Brothers’. What seems to me to be the most significant part of the book is when he realised what God was calling him to make his life’s work. He was on the Mount of Beatitudes, keeping away from tourists when he ambled down a long flight of steps cut into the hill and stopped to take in the vista of blue sea rimmed by hills on the east and west. The scene was unchanged since the days Jesus toured Galilee on foot. He then goes on to describe the scene as it would have been on the top of the hill when Jesus climbed up to present his teaching to the large crowd of local people and others from Jerusalem, Judea and beyond the Jordan.
A large group of women and children would have lingered in the background, as was the custom. In the forefront, spread across the grassy slope, were the men. No doubt there were Jewish Zealots, those political activists who plotted the violent overthrow of the Roman occupation forces. Perhaps they hoped that Jesus would deliver a scorching message of destruction against the emperor. No doubt there were members of the Pharisee party, their long-tasselled robes gathered about them, waiting to judge the orthodoxy of Jesus – waiting to stone him if he stepped outside their rigid tenets. To the side were the peasants, the common tradesmen and some shepherds. Respectful, humble, they quietly listened for some uplifting word from the teacher – a message that would ease the burdens heaved on their backs by both the political fanatics and the grim-faced religious. Maybe there was among them a Samaritan, a despised outcast. As Jesus looked them over, he was already blending together the teachings of the Law and the Prophets with fresh vitalising wisdom.
Then came the realisation that would enable Chacour to discern his future ministry as a Melkite priest:
The Beatitudes were prophecies! He had already set out to fulfil his purpose of grafting the Jews and Gentiles together into one family and one kingdom by his death.
Elias Chacour went on to live his life according to the teaching Jesus gave on the Mount of Beatitudes, in particular, what he saw as the prophecy:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
If I was to go out as a true servant of God, Chacour writes, my first calling was to be a peacemaker. With these words, it seemed that I had finally found my way.
We are privileged to live in a society which is, apparently, structured and organised with due attention paid to the differences within it. However, there are many occasions when a peacemaker, a mediator, is needed. When we are tempted to lean to one side or another it is vital to remember the teachings of Jesus, in particular:
Blessed are the peacemakers.