Peace On Earth - Pass It On
by Andy Buchleitner, OFS
It’s that wonderful Franciscan time of the year! Once again we prepare to celebrate, in a special way, the joyful Good News that God loves us so much He desires to be among us. Come Emmanuel, come! I welcome you into my heart.
But I find my joy is not always shared. Some of the poor I serve, in fact, find this the most distressing and joyless time of their year. This is especially true for many of the elder shut-ins and prison inmates I visit. Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that they just don’t know that God exists anymore. They feel abandoned, forgotten. And I ask myself, “Why is this?” Perhaps the answer is simply that no one takes the time to show them God’s love.
Our brother Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier, in a letter to St Ignatius, once voiced the same concern; “Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians. Again and again I have thought of going round the universities of Europe, especially Paris, and everywhere crying out like a madman, riveting the attention of those with more learning than charity: ‘What a tragedy: how many souls are being shut out of heaven and falling into hell, thanks to you!’ I wish they would work as hard at this as they do at their books, and so settle their account with God for their learning and the talents entrusted to them.
This thought would certainly stir most of them to meditate on spiritual realities, to listen actively to what God is saying to them. They would forget their own desires, their human affairs, and give themselves over entirely to God’s will and his choice. They would cry out with all their heart: Lord, I am here! What do you want me to do? Send me anywhere you like.”
I sometimes ask myself, “Have I become a Franciscan scholar while my brothers and sisters suffer from the ignorance of not knowing God?” Are they not at peace because I have not offered them Christ’s peace? Perhaps I need to re-read the Gospels, especially Matthew 25, to recognize that perhaps God just might ultimately be judging the service I give my neighbor instead of how many books I’ve studied or even how much I say I love Him. I think back to the Baltimore Catechism that taught me we are to, “know, love and serve God in this world, that we may be happy with Him in the next.” Has something changed? Has God’s expectations for me lessened? As a Christian, and certainly as a Franciscan, God has not only placed in my heart all the instruction I need but has equipped and even shown me the Way. He has put love in my heart to be shared. Now it’s time to share my Joy. Now it’s time to be the gospel that someone has never read. Now it’s time I become an instrument of Peace.
May Christ’s peace reign! Happy and Blessed Holydays!
Andy Buchleitner, ofs, writes thought-provoking articles and I've known him 15+ years, so periodically we put his stuff on our website. The following was received in Nov. 2018:
WITHOUT JUSTICE THERE CAN BE NO PEACE
The wonderful documents of the Second Vatican Council certainly challenge us to consider our responsibilities toward building a more just society that we may achieve God’s desire for “Peace on Earth.” As this year concludes, I felt it might be good to review (in short summary) some of the wisdom from the Council’s pastoral constitution “Gaudium et spes” as we ask ourselves how well we have lived out our Church’s JPIC message this year.
We must re-educate our minds towards peace:
Men must not be content simply to support the efforts of others in the work for peace; they must also scrutinize their own attitudes. There is (also) a very great need to re-educate men and to provide fresh inspiration in the field of public opinion. Those engaged in education and those who influence public opinion, should consider it a very serious responsibility to work for the re-education of mankind to a new attitude toward peace. We must all undergo a change of heart. We must look out on the whole world and see the tasks that we can all do together to promote the well-being of the family of man.
The duty of Christians to build peace:
Christians should co-operate, willingly and wholeheartedly, in building an international order based on genuine respect for legitimate freedom and on a brotherhood of universal friendship. This is all the more urgent because the greater part of the world still experiences such poverty that in the voices of the poor Christ himself can be heard, crying out for charity from his followers. There are nations, many of them with a Christian majority, which enjoy an abundance of goods, while others are deprived of the necessities of life, and suffer from hunger, disease and all kinds of afflictions. This scandal must be removed from among men, for the glory of Christ’s Church and its testimony to the world are the spirit of poverty and the spirit of love.
The promotion of peace:
Peace is not the mere absence of war or the simple maintenance of a balance of power between forces, nor can it be imposed at the dictate of absolute power. It is called, rightly and properly, a work of justice. It is the product of order, the order implanted in human society by its divine founder, to be realized in practice as men hunger and thirst for ever more perfect justice.
Peace here on earth cannot be maintained unless the good of the human person is safeguarded, and men are willing to trust each other and share their riches of spirit and talent. If peace is to be established it is absolutely necessary to have a firm determination to respect other persons and peoples and their dignity, and to be zealous in the practice of brotherhood. Peace is therefore the fruit also of love; love goes beyond what justice can achieve. Peace on earth, born of love for one’s neighbor, is the sign and the effect of the peace of Christ that flows from God the Father. In his own person the incarnate Son, the Prince of Peace, reconciled all men to God through his death on the cross.
All Christians are thus urgently summoned to live the truth in love, and to join all true peacemakers in prayer and work for peace.
ARE YOU CONTAGIOUS?
by Andy Buchleitner, OFS
Flu season, what a drag. First, I caught it, then my wife and finally my son. On my recent trip to the ER to address my son’s very high fever the doctor said he was the one hundred thirty-fifth case – of the day! It was like going into an infectious disease combat zone with everyone running around with surgical masks on, people continually streaming in for treatment, all hoping for less than a six hour wait for relief. I understand some ER’s around the country have even set up tents to accommodate the overflow.
I always try to gain something from my experiences. What occurred to me after this memorable event was what it means to be contagious. The dictionary’s definition is: spreading something from one person to another. In this case it was the flu. But what about other things that can just as easily be spread, such as laughter or depression? Isn’t our attitude, as we share with others, passed on. Don’t they seem to “catch” whatever we are spreading?
I had the opportunity to attend a national Franciscan JPIC meeting a couple years ago that required the attendees to ride a train from the airport to the retreat center. The train ride lasted an hour and made stops at some very depressed locations throughout St. Louis. Our meeting was being held during a time of significant social/racial unrest in this city that, at the time, was even making the National news. The expressions of those that boarded along the way varied from fearful, downcast or aggressive to just plain tired. When I had first gotten on the train, I did not know any of the fellow Franciscans that were sharing the ride, but I quickly recognized them as our ride progressed.
I’m sure you‘ve heard it said that there is a dark cloud hanging over some people. It reflects their mood – unhappy. What I saw on this train were people with bright clouds hanging over their heads - Franciscans sharing with a smiling new acquaintance. The Franciscan JOY was contagious!
As Franciscans we are called, in a special way, to be peacemakers. Let us begin by not only living the Gospel ourselves but by sharing the Gospel with others. Be contagious! Let there be Peace on earth and let it begin with me but then – pass it on.
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Officers as of 1/10/2016
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS