I want to share with the readers of my column the text of my reflection
for the Holy Hour before midnight Mass in San Fernando on New Year's.
The reflection was on the Message of Pope John Paul II for World
Day of Peace.
“I want to offer two statements that will, I hope, help you to appreciate
the importance and the practicality of the Holy Father's Message
for the World Day of Peace.
Statement No. 1: For people who live in peace
and who have lived in peace all their lives, it is very difficult
for them to appreciate the experience of those who live in war and
under oppression. For people whose rights are respected and who have
the ability to vindicate their rights whenever necessary, it is very
difficult for them to appreciate the experience of those whose rights
are not respected and who can do very little about it.
Statement No. 2: Globalisation confronts us with
a world not firmly under our control. It is, therefore, frightening.
It has increased the speed of social interaction to such a degree
that many people have been overwhelmed by the impact and some have
been hopelessly left behind. It is a world driven by the economics
of the world market and technology, especially information technology.
It involves perilous risks because it could motivate nationalistic
and ethnic forces to resist violently the dissolution of national
boundaries and control. It could suppress authentic forms of localism
and, possibly, fuel a commitment to reactionary politics.
Human rights, the effects of globalisation, values and peace: Four
important social justice issues that lead to two important questions!
How do we speak to these issues with a credible voice? How can we
communicate our view with a sufficiently universalist perspective?
The Catholic Community uses its voluminous social teaching to speak
to the four issues just mentioned that will be addressed by the Holy
Father. (Please note: The Compendium of the Social Doctrine
of the Church will be available in English in March 2005. It
will give direct access to the teaching of the Magisterium on social
It uses the universalist perspective that is rooted in
the divine mandate to the Catholic Church to address the entire
world. The World Day of Peace Message is itself a part of the social
teaching of the Church.
An analysis of the message
In his Message for the World Day of Peace this year, the Holy Father
suggests a way to begin addressing the entire world about the four
issues in a practical way. His theme is from St Paul 's letter to
the Romans: “ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with
good .” The quotation from Romans (Rom 12: 21 ) sounds very
pious and safe. The truth is it is neither pious nor safe. It teaches
a profound social message and invites a response of personal and
The nature of evil
What does it teach? It teaches that evil is present. Evil disrespects
human rights, it influences globalisation, it erodes values that
identify us as human and it undermines peace. The Holy Father shows
us that once you accept “the evil for evil dynamic”, there is no
way out of the vicious circle. It just becomes more and more vicious
and claims more and more victims.
The Holy Father teaches us about the nature of evil. Evil is not
some impersonal, deterministic force. It is the result of a misuse
of freedom. Freedom distinguishes the human person from every other
creature on earth. Evil, the Holy Father says, always has a name
and a face. Adam and Eve rebelled against God and Cain killed his
brother, Abel. Those actions flowed from moral choices, which affected
the relationships of those involved with God, other people and creation
Another way of looking at evil is to understand it as a rejection
of love. Moral good is born of love, shows itself as love and is
directed toward love. Christian community should be a witness to
this teaching. Moral good born of love explains the Christian mandate
to love your enemies. The evil for evil dynamic considers this Christian
principle of loving your enemies totally unacceptable. It operates
off the premise that we must eliminate our enemies.
Conscience formation/education of the young
Moral goodness also guides us about how to deal with the conflicting
claims of good and evil. We must live by the moral values given by
God. The Holy Father reminds us that what is needed in the world
is a great effort to use these moral values to form consciences and
to educate the younger generation to goodness.
Note the distinction:
forming consciences is a responsibility for everyone. People with
properly formed consciences then have the responsibility to educate
the young. Learning and living the universal moral law is the foundation
for a social, economic and political order respectful of the dignity,
freedom and fundamental rights of each person. “ Do not be overcome
by evil, but overcome evil with good .”
How can individual people begin to address the enormous challenge
of so much violence, so much fear, tension and death in society?
Do people even realise they are being socially conditioned to respond
to evil with violence and to accept the evil for evil dynamic as
the only way to survive? The Holy Father recommends three practical
responses to the challenge:
1) Consider yourself as a citizen of the world who has a
responsibility for the common good.
We are citizens of the world because we are united by a common origin
and have a common destiny. The common good means the sum total of
social conditions which allow people, either as groups or individuals,
to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily. It rests on
1) respect for the dignity of each person;
well being and social development;
All three criteria are important. Why? Because even for the people
who are willing to think in terms of the common good, they understand
it exclusively in terms of social well being and social development.
That is not the view of the Catholic Church.
God is the ultimate
goal of all creatures and history journeys toward Christ. The common
good must always be understood to include a transcendent dimension – it
contains a movement to God.
2) Be able to name the evil that affects your life and society .
Remember the norm: Evil has a name and a face: it may be a person,
a place or a social policy or the lack thereof and we must accept
the possibility in humility that the person may be ourselves. Naming
the evil of the society in which you live may be a bit more complicated.
It requires knowledge of how society functions and, more significantly,
it requires a willingness and ability to rise above the “blind spots” that
are present in any culture. People tend to think uncritically. One
result is that the traditional way of acting and reacting is the
only way to continue acting and reacting.
3) Be willing to be an instrument of good
to counter the presence of evil .
Moral goodness is our mission and it is a difficult mission because
evil can look so good. Moral goodness requires deep faith and eschatological
patience. However, moral goodness is the only reality that will make
us free and help us to experience peace. Although it is not easy
to fulfill, the Holy Father calls us to “a new creativity in charity” in
order to spread the Gospel of Hope especially to people who are discouraged.
There is no substitute for reading and reflecting on the Holy Father's
Message for the World Day of Peace. It can be downloaded from the
Vatican website. It is only seven pages including footnotes. In his
Message, the Holy Father lists many of the evils that must be confronted
to foster peace.
Responding to them will create a new political culture,
new forms of solidarity and a new commitment to authentic humanism.
The Holy Father reminds us that redeemed humanity is capable of
resisting evil. When goodness overcomes evil, love prevails and where
love prevails, there is peace.