Peace in the Holy Land

Ash Wednesday, February 17

Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. — 2 Corinthians 13:11

Peace in Hebrew is the word shalom. There are 236 biblical references with the word shalom in the Old Testament. 

It can mean peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility. It is used to mean both hello and goodbye throughout the Middle East. The Jewish greeting is shalom aleichem, meaning “peace be upon you.” 

Peace is often defined as an absence of war or fighting. It has a more positive connotation emoting completeness or wholeness. It is expressed in our relationships with God and humanity, and even with the created world. It involves positive engagements in the relationships between human beings. 

Peace is a state of balance and harmony arising out of our desire to be one with God. It is our duty not only to seek peace, but to strive for its attainment in every sphere of life. We are called to seek peace for every living person. If peace is absent from any community, the negative consequences could include conflict and possibly death. We pray for peace to permeate our lives and every region of the world, especially in the region which blessed us with the Prince of Peace. 

Today, as the season of Lent begins with ashes being bestowed virtually in a time of COVID-19, we pray for peace for all people. We especially turn our attention to the need for peace in the Holy Land. The Middle East, like many regions in the world, suffers from a lack of peace. Life has become increasingly difficult for Christians living in the Holy Land. In Israel there has been a rapid decrease in Christian residents as their numbers have dropped to just 2% of the population. The tiny Christian communities experience intense societal pressure as they are caught between much larger Muslim and Jewish populations. Their experience is similar to that of West Bank Palestinians as residents and rights groups document land seizures, arbitrary detentions and collective punishment as a part of the Israeli occupation.

Most gracious and loving God, we pray for justice and peace that leads to an end to violence. We pray that those who struggle internally might be blessed with the spirit of God, which grants up solace. We pray for the presence of the Prince of Peace in the hearts of those who believe. Move us all to actions of peace and justice. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.