Peace that passes understanding: a shared wound
By Rev. Patrick D. Heery
Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
Reflection: In the summer of 2017, I stood before 80 men incarcerated in a maximum security prison in central New York, during a revival called Alive in Christ Together. I told them how my twin sons, Ezra and Leo, had died just a couple months earlier, born too little to survive. As I spoke, I looked out on the faces of men who knew this pain intimately. Some of them also had experienced stillbirths and miscarriages (the mortality rate for infants and mothers in the United States is appalling, but even more appalling is the racial disparity that renders black infants twice as likely to die as white infants). Others had lost children to gun violence, addiction, poverty, police brutality—or to the separation of incarceration. Almost all of them were themselves lost children, orphaned by economic and racial systems that had dehumanized and marginalized both them and their parents.
The men began to cry with me. We held each other, shaking and praying—for their children, for mine, for the hundreds of thousands cradled in cultural memory. They wrote the names of my sons on artwork and stoles, which they gave me like sacraments. They told me the stories of their children; they lifted up names previously confined to the silence of a prison cell.
A peace that passes understanding took hold that day. Across the differences of our lives, we found each other in a shared dream—that these names would not be forgotten, that fatherhood could not be lost, and that the hope of the resurrection would prevail, in this world and the next.
Action: Peace begins with a shared wound—like Jesus showing the holes in his side and saying, “Peace.” It begins with the recognition that vulnerability is strength, and that pain spoken is a demand for justice. Tell someone your pain today. See what it opens unto you and them.
Prayer: Wounded God, show us your heartbreak, and hear ours. Make of us a beloved community that hurts, hopes, and stands up together. Amen.
Rev. Patrick D. Heery is the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Auburn, New York, and is the former editor of Presbyterians Today and Unbound: An Interactive Journal of Christian Social Justice.
This year’s A Season of Peace resources are designed to help Presbyterians explore different forms and lenses for peacemaking. From the personal level to global issues like human trafficking and sustainable development, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Through the days of this year’s A Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect on:
- Peace that passes understanding: personal testimonies of faith and peace within self, within families, within communities
- Partners in peace: interfaith work for peace and justice, building peace between us while witnessing to peace in our wider world
- Go and see: reflections from travel study seminar participants
- The church and its witness: reflections on addressing trafficking in its varied forms
- Peacemaking and practice: stories and reflections on building bridges and crossing divide
Each author represents a variety of vocations and experiences in peacemaking efforts. Individuals and households are invited to make use of these daily reflections beginning on Sunday, September 2, and concluding on World Communion Sunday, October 7.