Summary: "Peace in society cannot be understood as pacification or the mere absence of violence"
Thursday of Sixth Week in Course
Joy of the Gospel
We are now in the season which the Extraordinary Form calendar still calls Septuagesima, or the seventy days before Easter. In other words, we need to remember that we are looking toward the beginning of Lent on March 1, and the sacrifices we need to make to improve our imaging of Jesus and Mary. Genesis today helps us by speaking of a new beginning of the covenant between God and humans. The command given to Adam and Eve is given to Noah and his family: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” After the war that God visited upon the faithless and unjust evil society that sin had left, we see peace return in the form of a sign–the rainbow.
The Holy Father now writes about the common good, and the striving for peace in society: ‘We have spoken at length about joy and love, but the word of God also speaks about the fruit of peace (cf. Gal 5:22).
‘Peace in society cannot be understood as pacification or the mere absence of violence resulting from the domination of one part of society over others. Nor does true peace act as a pretext for justifying a social structure which silences or appeases the poor, so that the more affluent can placidly support their lifestyle while others have to make do as they can. Demands involving the distribution of wealth, concern for the poor and human rights cannot be suppressed under the guise of creating a consensus on paper or a transient peace for a contented minority. The dignity of the human person and the common good rank higher than the comfort of those who refuse to renounce their privileges. When these values are threatened, a prophetic voice must be raised.
‘Nor is peace “simply the absence of warfare, based on a precarious balance of power; it is fashioned by efforts directed day after day towards the establishment of the ordered universe willed by God, with a more perfect justice among men”. In the end, a peace which is not the result of integral development will be doomed; it will always spawn new conflicts and various forms of violence.
‘People in every nation enhance the social dimension of their lives by acting as committed and responsible citizens, not as a mob swayed by the powers that be. Let us not forget that “responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation”. Yet becoming a people demands something more. It is an ongoing process in which every new generation must take part: a slow and arduous effort calling for a desire for integration and a willingness to achieve this through the growth of a peaceful and multifaceted culture of encounter.
‘Progress in building a people in peace, justice and fraternity depends on four principles related to constant tensions present in every social reality. These derive from the pillars of the Church’s social doctrine, which serve as “primary and fundamental parameters of reference for interpreting and evaluating social phenomena”.In their light I would now like to set forth these four specific principles which can guide the development of life in society and the building of a people where differences are harmonized within a shared pursuit. I do so out of the conviction that their application can be a genuine path to peace within each nation and in the entire world.’
We will get into those principles over the next few weeks, but let me add that they will be difficult to implement. But Jesus showed us that difficult doesn’t mean impossible. Peter in the Gospel wanted to have a Messiah who didn’t suffer. That would have been impossible, because only after Jesus won forgiveness for sins, and brought to us the Holy Spirit who is the only force that changes the human heart, could we ever hope for a truly just and peaceful human community.