Summary: Peace is more than the mere absence of war; it involves the pursuit of love
Memorial Day 2013
Monday of 8th Week in Course
Gaudium et Spes
The rich young man, we read here, responded to the challenge of Jesus by walking away. It says his “face fell.” That doesn’t capture the full emotional meaning of the Greek text. It uses the word stygnasas. The same word would be used for a human emotion of deepest disappointment and a cloud bank that bears a massive tornado. Here’s a man just beginning to feel the full vigor of adulthood who passes up the highest happiness–walking with God-made-man Himself–because he is enslaved by his passions. He is in thrall to his wealth-fueled bad habits that will only lead him to eternal damnation.
On this day when we remember those who in our many wars and military interventions, both within our borders and without, have given their lives up for a higher purpose. We know from the work of 20th century historians that most of them were motivated simply by fear of letting their buddies down. But is that not a higher purpose? They all had to trust that the politicians who started the war did so for a noble and just end. We also know that in too many cases, those ends were neither noble nor just, or that noble ends were corrupted by the greed for personal gain and glory. Still, we celebrate the sacrifice of those who died, because the great majority of those soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and women gave up their lives for causes that have preserved our Constitution and our liberty.
In the great chapter 5 of the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, the Council Fathers gave us a mission: “In our generation when men continue to be afflicted by acute hardships and anxieties arising from the ravages of war or the threat of it, the whole human family faces an hour of supreme crisis in its advance toward maturity. Moving gradually together and everywhere more conscious already of its unity, this family cannot accomplish its task of constructing for all men everywhere a world more genuinely human unless each person devotes himself to the cause of peace with renewed vigor. Thus it happens that the Gospel message, which is in harmony with the loftier strivings and aspirations of the human race, takes on a new luster in our day as it declares that the artisans of peace are blessed "because they will be called the sons of God" (Matt. 5:9).
“Consequently, as it points out the authentic and noble meaning of peace and condemns the frightfulness of war, the Council wishes passionately to summon Christians to cooperate, under the help of Christ the author of peace, with all men in securing among themselves a peace based on justice and love and in setting up the instruments of peace.
“Peace is not merely the absence of war; nor can it be reduced solely to the maintenance of a balance of power between enemies; nor is it brought about by dictatorship. Instead, it is rightly and appropriately called an enterprise of justice. Peace results from that order structured into human society by its divine Founder, and actualized by men as they thirst after ever greater justice. The common good of humanity finds its ultimate meaning in the eternal law. But since the concrete demands of this common good are constantly changing as time goes on, peace is never attained once and for all, but must be built up ceaselessly. Moreover, since the human will is unsteady and wounded by sin, the achievement of peace requires a constant mastering of passions and the vigilance of lawful authority.
“But this is not enough. This peace on earth cannot be obtained unless personal well-being is safeguarded and men freely and trustingly share with one another the riches of their inner spirits and their talents. A firm determination to respect other men and peoples and their dignity, as well as the studied practice of brotherhood are absolutely necessary for the establishment of peace. Hence peace is likewise the fruit of love, which goes beyond what justice can provide.”
That love is only given by the Holy Spirit, and true love can only be found by following the Prince of Peace. As Jesus calls us to spread peace through love, let’s not be distracted by lesser things. Let’s not follow the young man who gave up Jesus for his toys and pleasures. Let’s take up our mission and our cross and follow Christ.