The media are filled with horrific details of the bombing in Boston, the murderous practices of Dr. Gosnell, the abortionist who snapped babies’ spines if they surprisingly survived outside the womb, and the increase of poverty in Milwaukee.

When it comes to human dignity, respect for life and peace, our society seems to be moving in the wrong direction. As Catholics, these radical violations of human dignity disturb us. As we observe “Safe Environment Week” in the context of April as the National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the theme held up is “Makers of Peace.”

We honor Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace, as the Son of God who came to us in order to establish the Reign of God, which is eminently peaceful for it is established in the perfect love and justice of God himself.

Through his violent death and glorious resurrection, Jesus has taken upon himself all the violence, sin, hatred and evil of the world. He became the scapegoat so that all scapegoating could end. His Paschal Mystery reconciles humanity to God and to each other. Christians then are called to become peacemakers, to act out the Gospel, to become ambassadors of reconciliation.

In Pope Francis, we see the power of the symbolic gesture. In just a little more than a month, our new pope has captured the attention and heart of the world through acts of service, humility and love. Calling his newspaper boy in Buenos Aires to cancel his subscription, diving into crowds to hug and greet people, washing the feet of imprisoned youth, choosing to celebrate his daily Mass for Vatican workers, embracing the little boy with cerebral palsy on Easter Sunday have impressed even many non-Catholics and moved people to a deeper faith.

I always marvel at the difference between reading the text of a play versus seeing it acted out. I remember reading “Hamlet” in high school English class and finding it difficult to understand the archaic language, track the many characters and follow the plot. A few years later, I saw the play brilliantly acted out by an expert group of players. The color, emotion, life and meaning of the play came gloriously alive. Is it not the same with faith?

When we forgive and seek forgiveness, support a young woman in a crisis pregnancy, sacrifice to keep our children safe, healthy and holy, feed the poor, visit a sick relative, stand up for the marginalized, seek better help for drug addicts, and visit prisoners, do we not act out the Gospel of Jesus Christ and become the peacemakers that he speaks of so movingly in the Sermon on the Mount?

Christians are called to become experts in human nature, walking at times in the shadow of death, bearing the wounds of the world’s suffering and hatred, doing prayer and penance in atonement for our sins and those of others while at the same time radiating the joy and hope of the boundless possibilities for goodness, justice and peace offered to us through the risen Christ.

By simply acting out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, we help unleash the radical love of the crucified Jesus, the ultimate spiritual force that can heal the sickness and evil of the world.

This week, I concelebrated the Mass of Atonement, offered by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki at St. John Vianney Parish, Brookfield. The Eucharist is the culmination of all our individual actions for peace, justice and mercy, for it is the action of the Lord Jesus himself, the one who takes us up into his sacrifice to the Father and brings peace and salvation to humanity.

Because Jesus sacrificed himself, we do not need to sacrifice each other. The killing of Jesus heals our disordered desires for revenge, hatred, exclusion and violence. As the church continues to seek to create a safe and holy environment for all people to flourish, especially our beloved young, we rededicate ourselves to actions for peace, mercy, justice and joy. Such is the Kingdom of God. Blessed are the peacemakers!