Pope Francis has chosen the promotion of world peace as his intention for January 2020 saying, “In a divided and fragmented world, I want to invite all believers, and also all people of good will, to reconciliation and fraternity. Our faith leads us to spread the values of peace and mutual understanding, of the common good. We pray that Christians, followers of other religions, and all people of goodwill may promote together peace and justice in the world.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ said in the Gospel of Matthew,
“You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny (Mt 5:21-26).”
How do we begin to seek reconciliation and peace? How can we promote peace in our own lives each day? I would like to offer four thoughts, based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 2302 – 2306. Seeking justice, cooperating with charity, allowing this work to take effect, and embracing our cross.
Denounce Anger, Seek Justice
Anger moves us to action. Often times, anger is moving us to the action of revenge. However, it is never justified to commit an evil action. When we seek vengeance, no matter how small or large, we are desiring revenge. This is against the law of God. The ends never justify the means, according to a Catholic understanding of morality.
Restitution is different from vengeance. Restitution seeks to correct vice and seeks after justice. Justice is giving to each what is due to them. Justice is a virtue by which we respect the rights of others and seek to promote harmony between persons, based upon the common good.
Even if we do not allow anger to move us to actually acting against another unjustly, we will still be judged for letter that anger brew in our hearts.
Corrie Ten Bloom was a Dutch woman who was arrested by the Nazis for hiding Jews. She survived countless horrors in the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Later, in 1947, in a church in Munich, she saw one of the vicious guards of Ravensbrück. Since the war, this vile man had become a Christian. After her talk, he approached her and asked her for forgiveness. By the power of Jesus, Corrie Ten Bloom did forgive that Nazi guard. This is the strength God gives us to overcome anger, if we only ask.
Denounce Hatred, Cooperate with Charity
It would have been easy for Corrie Ten Bloom to give into hatred of this guard who had caused her so much suffering. It would have been easy for her to curse the man and walk away. A compelling argument could even be made that he would have deserved to be treated like dirt.
She describes this moment, frozen before the former guard, as one of the most difficult things she has ever had to do. She cried out in the silence of her heart to Christ saying, “Jesus, help me! I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.” Of course, Jesus answered. He desired for charity to win the day, as it always does.
She put out her hand describes being filled with a “healing warmth.” Tears came to her eyes and she said, “I forgive you, brother. With all my heart.” The love of God has a power that cannot be explained in words. This forgiveness is impossible for man, but with God all things are possible.
One of the most radical parts of Christianity is the call of Christ to love not only our friends, but also to love our enemies. This radical love frees the heart. Charity makes us truly free.
The Work of Justice and Effect of Charity
There is a wise phrase that goes, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
The development of human life on earth and respect for that life requires peace. Peace is not merely the absence of anger or hatred, not merely the absence of violence or conflict. Peace demands that we safeguard “the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity (CCC 2304).” Peace is right order. Peace is “the work of justice and the effect of charity (CCC 2304).”
We will find peace in our own life when we work for true justice, based on the common good, order to the highest good which is God. We will find peace when we cooperate with the charity of God and let that love of God take full effect in our lives.
Embrace the Cross
Justice and charity require sacrifice. Without a heart of sacrifice, we cannot follow Christ, and we cannot possess any peace. As Jesus teaches His followers: “‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life (Mt 16:24-26)?”
Embracing the cross out of sacrificial love is part of following Christ. Peace on earth is worth praying for and working towards, but it comes from Christ alone who is the Prince of Peace. Jesus is our peace. His Blood flows from the Cross and reconciles men to God. On the Cross, Jesus restored peace. This restoration will be completed at the end of this world, but the hostility caused by original sin was brought to an end by Christ (cf. Eph 2:16).
We do not need to have hearts filled with anger or hatred. We do not need to be content with injustice. We have been called to something higher. In Christ and through His Church, we have been called to abundant life and to friendship with God. This alone can bring us peace.
If you want peace in your life, invite Jesus into your heart and give Him full control.