Recent events around the world have alerted us to the fragility of peace in our world. This week, in which we mark the International Day of Peace, offers an opportunity to pause and reflect on the need for peace not only in our world but in our own inner lives. Martin Luther King Jr once said, “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”
Peace is not the absence of conflict, we have heard said. What is peace, then? How would you define peace? Maybe the season of Autumn and the Autumn Equinox in particular point us toward a possible answer. Jesus very often invited people to learn from the lessons of creation. In the Gospel of Matthew he draws our attention to the birds and wild flowers; the trees and the blade of grass; the seeds and the weeds; the field and the vineyard; the sheep and the snake; the fish and the pearl; the sky, the rain and the wind.
The Autumn Equinox is when day and night are of equal length. It speaks to us of the need for balance in our lives. It invites us to reflect on the delicate dance of light and shadow in us. It’s a concept that the ancient Chinese philosophy encapsulated in the principle of Yin and Yang.
As we watch the leaves change colour from the fresh green of early spring to the reds and auburn of autumn we recall that all things change, nothing is permanent. We are reminded of the circle of life and our need to be mindful of its ebb and flow. In admiring the fall foliage we delight in the memory of summer fruitfulness and anticipate the barrenness of impending winter.
The falling leaves mirror for us the need of letting go. The tree surrenders its leaves with the full knowledge that in time life will spring anew. The autumn trees remind us to let go that which burdens us now even though at another time it was the very thing that defined us! It invites us to see that the fallen leaves will compost to encourage new growth.
Autumn highlights for us the need for balance, relationships, trust and hope. Indeed, is this not what peace is made of? No coincidence then that the International Day of Peace heralds the arrival of autumn. Let us gift peace to each other. Let us echo the words of Henri Nouwen:
Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.
READ: Pray An Autumn Blessing Joyce Rupp & Macrina Wiederkehr
WATCH: View a slideshow reflection on The Calling of Matthew (Sept. 21)
CONSIDER: Get involved with the International Day of Peace (Sept. 21)