Part 4

A Pilgrim of Peace








Psalm 122



 I rejoiced

when I heard them say:
"Let us go to God's house."
And now our feet are standing
within your gates,
O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built as a city
strongly compact.
It is there that the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord.
For Israel's law it is,
there to praise
the Lord's name.
There were set
the thrones of judgment
of the house of David.
For the peace
of Jerusalem pray:
"Peace be to your homes!
May peace reign in your walls,
in your palaces, peace!"
For love
of my brethren and friends
I say:
'Peace upon you!"
For love of the house of the Lord
I will ask for your good.
Within the Psalter, there is a group of psalms (120 — 134) known as the "Psalms of Ascent" or the "Gradual Psalms." Concise little hymns, they were traditionally sung by pilgrims who were "going up" to Jerusalem for the great religious festivals on the Jewish calendar. Their brevity made them easy to memorize; their regular meter made them easy to sing.

While we do not know when the Child Jesus began to accompany His parents on their yearly pilgrimage to the Holy City for the Feast of the Passover, we can be sure that He heard these pilgrim songs from an early age and joined His fellow travelers in singing them. It is moving to think of the Incarnate Word chanting Psalm 122, the wonder-filled song of generations of Jewish pilgrims, as He entered the Holy City for the great feasts: And now our feet are standing within your gates, 0 Jerusalem. Was our Lord alluding to this psalm's summons — For the peace of Jerusalem pray — as He wept over the city doomed to destruction because it rejected Him? Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! (Luke 19:42)

Our Lord would return to the Upper Room in Jerusalem after His Resurrection, and His greeting to those gathered there would be: Peace! His prayer for the peace of Jerusalem and for all nations continues down the centuries, as saints of every age take up the pilgrim refrain of Psalm 122, and work to be counted among the blessed peacemakers of His Kingdom.

Christ entrusted a very particular mission of peace to St. Francis of Assisi. Humanly speaking, it seems incongruous that God would choose a wealthy, worldly, would-be knight to be His herald of peace. But that only proves that God's ways are not our ways! In Francis, zeal and gentleness, courage and courtesy provided the good soil in which the seed of peace could take root and flourish. His biographer wrote: In all of his preaching, before he presented the Word of God to the assembly, Francis prayed for peace saying: May the Lord give you His peace. He always proclaimed this to men and women, to those he met and to those who met him. (FIRST LIFE OF ST. FRANCIS by Friar Thomas of Celano)

St. Francis declared in his Testament that it was the Lord [who] revealed to me that we should say: May the Lord give you peace. So Francis lived peace, proclaimed peace, and promoted peace wherever he went. The Little Poor Man made his own the psalmist's ardent prayer for peace. He asked his friars to do likewise, citing the Gospel text which echoes Psalm 122: Into whatever house [the friars] enter, let them first say: Peace be to this house! (RULE OF 1223, CF. Luke 10:5)

Every Christian is called to be a pilgrim in this world, going up with Christ to the heavenly Jerusalem. How much would change if Psalm 122 became our "song of ascent," if we, too, could proclaim to all our fellow pilgrims on the road of life a heartfelt: Peace upon you!






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