The Road to Peace
“If there is righteousness in the heart there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.” –Ancient Chinese Proverb
“The fruit of silence is prayer. The fruit of prayer is faith. The fruit of faith is love. The fruit of love is service. The fruit of service is peace.” –St. Teresa of Calcutta
Peace is universally desirable. But we may only plant the seeds in humility which will lead to true peace. If people truly desire peace, they would equally crave its roots. Unfortunately in our homes, our nation, and our world confusion and discord abide. Righteousness is mistaken for self-righteousness. Silence is effaced by noise. Prayer is often forgotten by the wayside.
Anger the Root of Self-Righteousness
Despite the multitude of moral problems that plague the current world, there is a prevailing attitude, not of contrition, but of self-righteousness. The daily news brings to our attention a stream of incidents in which people, feeling morally superior to others, want to tear down their principles and tarnish their legacy. Self-righteousness is the presumption that one is morally superior to others simply because one has accepted the dominant ethos of the times without regard to the will of God. St. Paul made the distinction between the two: “For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3). On the other hand, we read in James 3:18,“A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
The Chinese proverb above references beauty in character. When we see vigils at crisis pregnancy centers, there is a quiet beauty mirrored by those standing watch. They say their Hail Marys, they ask the women if they can assist them, there have even been cases where they enter the centers, offering each woman a rose. There is no screaming, no judgemental attitude. The sense is rather one of watching with Christ, as His Apostles were asked to do when he suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane. These pro-lifers stand vigil with the women, hoping to change their mind, knowing that even if they do not, they will need assistance and they offer a helping hand to those harmed, and eventually to forgiveness and yes, peace.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid” (John 14:37).
Witness in contrast pro-abortion activists. They have physically attacked peaceful demonstrators. They scream insensitive words (“Keep your rosaries out of our ovaries”). They have appeared topless and dumped water on the retired Archbishop Andre-Leonard of Belgium who closed his eyes to their immodesty and simply prayed. It’s easy to see which group is on the past to peace. The former group already exudes peace, but the second reeks of anger and chaos.
Through God’s Eyes
“The life of a man is the vision of God.” — St. Irenaeus
“Blessed are the poor in spirit” (CCC 2546). We are called to be alive with the grace of God, to see things as much as we are able, through God’s eyes. The notes in the Catechism remark: “The Word speaks of voluntary humility as ‘poverty in spirit'” [emphasis ours].
It is easy for the halo of righteousness to slip a few inches to form a noose of self-righteousness. An athlete who refuses to stand when his own national anthem is played may believe he is being righteous, but is his action, disrespectful of the flag as it is, really one of self-righteousness? The practitioners of abortion and euthanasia may very well believe they are being righteous, but in not following God’s law, they choose to end lives that He willed into creation. When we supercede God’s with our own, pride has taken the place of humility, and self-righteousness and evil rather than justice prevail.
The Way Forward
“‘Now suppose the man is righteous and does what is just and right….He follows My statutes and faithfully keeps My ordinances; he is righteous, surely he will live’ declares the Lord GOD…” (Ezekial 18:5, 9).
Scripture tells us that the righteous person is one who follows the will of God. Today’s culture of politically correct secular humanism erects signposts directing us away from the will of God. “Righteous” has become somewhat of a religious cliché and has consequently lost its meaning for many people. Nonetheless, its vital positive sense has not lost any moral significance: righteous indicates to set things right by putting them into a just order. This order is one originally established by God and not by man. “His seed shall be mighty upon the earth: the generation of the righteous shall be blessed” (Psalms 111:2).
When we set to on the path of the righteous, we ignite that positive chain of events capable of generating values that culminate in peace. It begins with righteousness, but this term is not without a number of equivalent terms: a spark of Divinity is found in a joyful smile even when we are weary, showing friendly countenance in serving others, being humble of heart and kind to all. “Righteousness” may be out of style as a word, but it can never be out of style as a value. We can be apostles of righteousness without being agents of alienation.
As January 1st approaches, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God – or the Feast of the Circumcision in the old calendar – we do well to begin the year with the best foot forward; a nod to the Mother of Christ, and the son who shed his first blood for us at the circumcision. Let us imitate the great humility and submission of Our Lady’s “fiat” and the Christ Child, who loved us to the point of sacrificing Himself. Or as Poet Robert Browning set to words in what is another good maxim for a new beginning of 2019: “The year’s at the spring, and day’s at morn; Morning’s at seven; The hill-side’s dew pearl’d; The lark’s on the wing; The snail’s on the thorn; God’s in His Heaven – All’s right with the world!”
Dr. Donald DeMarco is Prof. Emeritus/St. Jerome’s University, and his latest book, Apostles of the Culture of Life, contains a chapter on Fr. Paul Marx, Founder of HLI. Available through amazon.com