Peace among nations, and in some cases within nations, is in tatters. Countless lives are lost by the day in Ukraine and Gaza, while thousands more are being purged in lesser-publicised conflicts like the civil war in Sudan, which has been forced to bear witness to the displacement of eight million people.

In a heartfelt appeal for peace in his Angelus only a few weeks ago, Pope Francis said: “Wherever there is fighting populations are exhausted. They are tired of war, which is always useless, inconclusive and will only bring death and destruction and will never lead to a solution to the problem.” 

The Pope’s words have gone unheeded. Yet his voice of reason and compassion prompts a number of searching questions: 

Has humanity ever been at peace? What sort of plague of greed and violence has over the centuries shattered the dreams of nations and generations? Why do we stand in helpless silence at the sad spectacle of the United Nations Security Council constantly manipulated, humiliated and derided by a coterie of veto-wielding powers that were supposed to guarantee the principles of international law, human rights and human dignity? 

Leaders should not lose sight of the humanity of people, lest they fall into barbarism. When we lose our sense of humanity and proportionality, we fall into a condemnable state of foolishness for which we will ultimately be held accountable. 

However, peace is not only about an absence of strife and conflict. In the language of Jesus, it also includes health and well-being: a harmony that exudes serenity, self-control, generous love and compassion.

Peace within our society derives from a concerted synergy that seeks the common good in all decisions and policies. It is based on the deliberate choice of acceptance of each other as a style and as the soul of our social cohesion and coexistence. 

Inner peace, meanwhile, emanates from a lifestyle based of self-restraint, equilibrium, a positive attitude to life and love, a generous spirit that appreciates humility and avoids all arrogance. 

Narratives of malaise and lack of purpose in life abound, as do situations of radical guilt that lead to self-harm, and, sadly, in some cases also suicide. A culture of evasion of the challenges of life seems to be nurtured by more and more addictions and dependency on all forms of chemical stimuli. It is a fake life that robs us of the true one we should cherish so much.

While we can all reflect on what we can do to improve the way we conduct ourselves, the Pope has suggested that people could dedicate an extra few minutes to prayer and then ask themselves whether the other moments of their day are more serene or anxious, if they care more or less for their work, or if their relationships with difficult people are more or less tranquil.

“The spiritual life is circular,” he said. “The goodness of a choice benefits all areas of our lives. For it is participation in God’s creativity.”

Jesus’ resurrection made clear that God did not abandon his son, and would not abandon anyone else. It is a shining example we would do well to emulate in our words, and, more importantly, in our actions. 

In the Northern Hemisphere, where it all started, Easter coincides with the Spring Equinox. It is a moment of rebirth, a new beginning. We are invited by the Risen Lord to grasp the opportunity of new beginnings this Blessed Season brings.

Peace is a calling to live in harmony with creation that we are invited to accept humbly and responsibly as a gift of the Creator. 

Yet peace invariably comes at a price. As Jesus showed his disciples His wounds when He greeted them with peace, we are challenged to confront the wounds from our daily lives and transform them into sources of wisdom and compassion.

Because peace among us citizens can only truly come about if we make a conscious choice of respect over spite, dialogue over calumny, and solidarity over greed. 

May I take this opportunity to wish everyone a Blessed Easter. Peace be with you!

✠ Charles Jude Scicluna
    Archbishop of Malta

This article was first published on The Sunday Times of Malta.