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home : commentary : columns February 21, 2019

Blessed are the peacemakers

By Father John Catoir

Peacemakers include all those honorable law enforcement officers, male and female, who dedicate their lives, day in and day out, to keeping the peace. Having once served as a military policeman in the US Army, I experienced the ordeal of performing the many duties of law enforcement. Keeping the peace often involves an officer in violent conflicts with drunks, troublemakers, and sometimes more serious criminals.

When Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful,” he wasn’t saying that we should abandon the strict enforcement of the law by not holding anyone responsible for disturbing the peace. Police officers must oppose unruly and villainous behavior with courage.

Those who put their lives on the line to prevent criminals from sinning against law-abiding citizens are heroes, not war- mongers. Protecting the rights of the weak is a noble profession. They are the brave men and women who serve their neighbors and their country by risking life and limb every day. Jesus said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another.” And their service runs that risk every day.

Jesus also said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice.” He was praising those who struggle to promote justice, and He promised them that one-day their hunger for justice would be satisfied. Perfect justice may not easily be attained in this world, but God blesses those who strive. They try to build a just society based on their fidelity to the goal of attaining the common good.

Mercy is the name of love when it confronts misery, but vigilance is the name for love when it confronts danger. Protecting others often involves risking one’s own personal well-being. Mercy is never an invitation to thugs to misbehave. Threatening the peace of our fellow citizens is a criminal act. Justice requires a duty-bound resistance to evil. An act of obedience to law enforcement is always right and just. It cracks down on mobsters who engage in anti-social criminal behavior, and demands the protection of the innocent. We all must do our part to upholding the common good.          

In the Book of Micah 6:8, we read this fundamental moral precept: “Act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with your God.” Jesus defined all of revelation as having a common purpose. “I have told you all this so that my joy may in you and your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11).

Going forward, I think our law enforcement forces deserve real fairness. Yes, there have been abuses, and they must be swiftly corrected. For the most part that has been done, but an atmosphere of fairness requires more. It calls for cooperation and respect. An enormous good has been accomplished in our law enforcement efforts. With the right attitude, we can all benefit from a more peaceful and joyful society. People of all faiths and nationalities need to be their own best friend and not their own worst enemy. With God’s help we can all try to quiet our souls, and work together to help make this a better world.

We need to remember to pray. I like this one; “Hail Mary, full of grace, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen”. May the Lord be your strength and your joy.

Father John Catoir is a retired priest of the Paterson Diocese.

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