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Peace Principles

6 Mar

After a bit of a hiatus, we are now continuing our series on Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation on the joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium, or “EG”).

The Holy Father devotes a section toward the end of the document to “The Common Good and Peace in Society” (EG 217-37), a subject that clearly is near and dear to his heart. Authentic peace is not the mere absence of war or violence. It is also incompatible with the oppression of the poor and violations of the rights and dignity of the human person. Peace built on such a defective foundation simply is “doomed” (EG 219).

Pope Francis offers four principles to help us understand and balance some perennial tensions in human society. They provide excellent food for thought and meditation:

(1) Time is greater than space (EG 222-25) Time is open to the future, to our full potential, while space deals with limitation. Business people sometimes refer to the latter as a “zero sum” game, where competing parties are competing for pieces of the same pie. When we give priority to time, however, we find creative ways out of our limitations. This principle means initiating processes rather than possessing spaces, as self-assertion gives way to peaceful development (EG 223).

(2) Unity prevails over conflict (EG 226-30) Conflict is real. We can choose not deal with it or, at the other extreme, to become consumed by it. The best approach, however, is to deal with it and seek resolution. After all, “Blessed are the peacemakers!” (Mt. 5:9). Peace is possible because Christ, who is our peace (Eph. 2:14), has reconciled the world to God through the blood of His Cross (Col. 1:20). And, the Holy Father urges us, peace and reconciliation must begin in our own hearts. We are called to be ambassadors of reconciliation, seeking to build communion amidst diversity and disagreement. In Christ, such peace is possible!

(3) Realities are more important than ideas (EG 231-33) Obviously both have their place, but ideas separated from reality readily devolve into ideologies. Our faith is incarnate and not merely theoretical. The Word must become flesh within us, leading us to put words into practice. As Our Lord Himself said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and do it” (Lk. 11:27-28).

(4) The whole is greater than the part (EG 234-37) Localism and globalism are both important realities. A global perspective keeps us from becoming too narrow in our thinking, and a local perspective keeps our feet on the ground (EG 234). As we strike this balance we recognize that the whole is not only greater than the part, but it’s even greater than the sum of its parts. We need to broaden our horizons, to look beyond our immediate situation and develop a worldview that is inclusive of all peoples, especially the poor. So too, “the whole is greater than the part” also applies to the integrity of the Gospel, which must serve as a light for all peoples (EG 237). The Gospel in its fullness must be proclaimed, lived, shared.

Next week we will continue this series with some reflections on “social dialogue as a contribution to peace.”