“Peace is the harmony of good order. Good order is the membering of man in ready acceptance and honest love.” (Edward Holloway, Catholicism: A New Synthesis, 1)
As we begin 2018, the sense of tension in the international order is strong. There are fears of nuclear war given the problems that the North Korea situation poses – and anxiety as to whether The United States of America’s government is acting too strongly or not strongly enough. There are countless conflicts and simmering hostilities across the world. The United Kingdom’s own Brexit negotiation with the European Union seems fraught with suspicion and acrimony, despite best efforts to dress it up – and there are many voices within the EU which are similarly divided and hostile – not just towards the UK but also towards each other. There is a fairly constant onslaught on the fundamental right to life – from Ireland with its proposed referendum on permitting abortion, to campaigns for increased access to abortion and euthanasia in many parts of the world. There is a determined attempt to impose gender theories in many countries – with attempts to change language or to castigate parents for bringing up children as male or female, as if the structures of language and grammar bore no necessary relation to human biology and were just a social construct of a patriarchal or “straight” society – and forgetting that “non-binary” language is itself a construct and an attempt to ideologically cleanse language to suit a particular theory. Finally, there is increased anxiety concerning climate change – with some environmentalists demonising human beings, consumer-based Western cultures castigating poorer nations for their waste and pollution, and little attempt to think more profoundly about what a more ecologically-aware approach to our world may demand from such societies.
How do we find peace? What is clear is that peace proposed through political mechanisms usually involves imposition, threat and a wrangling between different ideologies. Either human beings are made subject to the State or they are typically cast as “individuals” – with little meaningful or intrinsic relationship to each other or any agreed notion on what it means to be a human being. The quotation from Edward Holloway above reminds us that peace comes from a restoration of relationships between persons – relationships characterised by truth and love. In the Catholic perspective, the human person can only find his/her true meaning in relation to God. In the Faith movement’s vision the whole universe is characterised by relationship, by an “environmental” structure. The human person’s true Environment is God. And this Environment is mediated to us through the Person of Jesus Christ, God made man, the Word become flesh – in His living and knowing as revealed to us in His birth, life, death and resurrection. In this perspective, every human being has an irreducible value and dignity – but also, because we have one Environment who fulfils all our knowing and loving and all our desire for love and truth, we are more deeply connected to each other than we sometimes dare to imagine. True peace is achieved only by living in conscious connection to our Environment, to Christ our Bread of Life, the Prince of Peace: synthesising all the elements of human life around the Person who gives them existence and purpose in the first place.
In this context, the Church has to strive to be a fulcrum of peace for the world – the hearth and home of every human being, where each can discover their unique, and at the same time common, destiny in Christ. Perhaps this is why Our Lady at Fatima in 1917, foreseeing the contemporary threats to peace, asked us to pray and to do penance – as she had in Lourdes in 1858. Works of penance are works of reparation – repairing our relationship with God and with each other and with ourselves. Prayer, penance, ready acceptance of each other, honest love - and synthesis: these are vital tools for bringing about peace. Divided humanity can only find reconciliation if it is joined to Christ who has come to draw all things to Himself (cf John 12:32; Ephesians 1:9-11). He is our peace.
January/ February 2020
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