"Prosper the work of our hands." (Psalm 90:17)
Before every Dolphins game during pre game warmups, you can find me on the sideline quietly praying my rosary. Many people have come up to me over the last two seasons and asked if I'm praying for the Dolphins to win. Usually I just tell them that I'm just praying for the safety of the players on both teams, but privately I repeat the last verse of today's psalm as I see the players and coaches get ready to execute a week's worth of intense preparation: "Prosper the work of our hands. Prosper the work of our hands." The psalmist repeats the phrase twice. I repeat it constantly that the Good Lord may bless all the hard work they have done. I pray this verse at times before Mass, a retreat, or any other endeavors I undertake. If we put God first and commend to him the work we are about to do, then he will shower his blessings on us.
There is so much going on in today's readings. Jesus lays out the cost of discipleship. We indeed pay a heavy price for following the Lord. We must put him before family, friends. We must take up our cross daily to follow him. We saw the price that Christ paid on the cross for us. There are no shortcuts to salvation. During these times in which we are called to pray for peace in the world, the cross and Christ's sacrifice teaches us such valuable lessons.
Last night, Pope Francis held a five hour vigil to pray for peace in Syria and the Middle East. During his homily, he talked about the cross: "How I wish that all men and women of good will would look to the Cross if only for a moment! There, we can see God’s reply: violence is not answered with violence, death is not answered with the language of death. In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken."
The silence of the cross! God could have taken his vengeance on humanity for what they were doing to his only Son, but the Father stayed silent and so did his Son. Who could have imagined that such a violent image of a man crucified would now bring people so much peace as they gaze upon it when they pray? Humanity's violent sins and actions were given a merciful response by God. What a price Christ paid so that we may have the peace of eternal life.
Human hands are capable of such beauty, but they are also capable of unspeakable atrocities. They can run with blood from acts of violence or they can bless with acts of peace. One does not fight evil with evil. We learned that lesson on the cross. We must be instruments of peace and allow God to bless the good works we do. This past week we celebrated the feast day of Mother Teresa who had a great quote about how to promote peace: "Peace begins with a smile. Smile five times a day at someone you don't really want to smile at; do it for peace. Let us radiate the peace of God and so light His light and extinguish in the world and in the hearts of all men all hatred and love for power." Peace does indeed begin on an individual level. The troubles currently plaguing the Middle East are far more complex, but how will firing missiles or dropping bombs help the Syrian people or the two million Syrian refugees, half of them children, who are currently displaced in neighboring countries in an unspeakable humanitarian disaster that is getting pushed aside in the news? Peace always peace! War, never war, Pope Paul VI said decades ago. As disciples of Christ we must work for peace each day no matter the cost, and we must oppose any actions that may take us to war. Peace has become so fleeting and the drums of war keep beating stronger and stronger with each passing day. We cannot give in to the practice of responding to violence with violence. One of our bishops said this week that we must "flood heaven with our prayers" asking our Lord for peace in our world. If each of us works for peace with just a smile or an act of charity or a simple prayer, then God will indeed prosper the work of our hands.