2020 has brought many unexpected challenges that have, in some way, affected nearly every person around the globe. As our world recovers from a global pandemic that impacted the health and well-being of millions, this great tragedy has been aggravated by simmering racial tensions that have boiled over into a renewed fight for universal justice.
Add these concerns on top of the already persistent issues of poverty in the developing world, harsh regional famines, global atrocities of human and labor trafficking and displaced refugees seeking shelter and a better life—and the pain can seem altogether crippling.
When our world is hurting, we often find that our lives, families and communities are not at peace. We all desire a return to global peace, but for many the path to peace appears unclear.
What is the relationship between peace and justice?
We are formed by our Creator with a natural desire for peace, so to experience distress in light of today’s troubling climate is not unusual. Jesus himself, who is the Prince of Peace, came to earth to open our eyes to the beauty and harmony of true peace, which can only be found through him. The Gospel of John tells us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you” (Jn 14:27).
As God is a God of Peace, he is also a God of Justice. The Church has long recognized the importance of peace and its close relationship to justice. In many ways, when we desire peace, we also desire justice.
In a 1972 message in celebration of the Day of Peace, Pope Paul VI tells us that if we look for the true source of peace, “we find that it is rooted in a sincere feeling for man.” He then goes on to explain, “and what do we call this sincere feeling for man? We call it justice.”
Justice, as defined within our relationships with one another, means that we are called to establish “harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good” (CCC 1807). More than fraternal respect, we must seek to give every person what they are rightfully due as a child of God.
When we fail to do this or to truly strive to love one another, we are not allowing justice to prevail. Injustice brings about discord, which prevents peace from flourishing.
In the pursuit of global peace and justice, what role can the people of the Church play?
Many Catholic religious have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of peace and justice around the world. By immersing themselves in communities around the world and taking simple steps, these missionaries are spreading the peace of Jesus through acts of justice. By extending the hand of justice to those experiencing great obstacles, they are spreading peace as far as they can reach.
For the lay people of the church, it may be difficult to see the role that each of us is called to play in the fight for peace and justice. But by taking our own humble steps, we can spread the peace of Christ to those around us and trample out injustice. Here are four simple ways you can address global pain and injustice in 2020 and work toward peace.
1. Peace begins at home.
Church teaching shows us that justice and an end to poverty are achieved when first practiced in the family. The family, viewed as the most central and essential building block of society, is first and foremost where the roots of peace and justice must be planted and cultivated.
Like the shade cast by a magnificent oak tree, whose roots are grounded deeply in the soil, so we must spread peace to the world around us. But if our roots are weak and shallow, the first great storm may topple us and destroy our ability to spread peace.
Today, let us all begin promoting peace and justice at home by loving our families and those close to us.
2. Do what you can, even if it seems small.
Great works do not always require great acts. St.Thérèse of Lisieux is widely known for her “Little Way,” through which she focused on doing simple, everyday things with great love and devotion. She was inspired by the Gospel to place love at the center of everything she did. Her Little Way has continued to change lives and lead people closer to the Heart of God.
As members of the Body of Christ, we too can spread the peace and love of God through small acts performed with great love.
Today, let us find a simple way to help someone near to us and offer that small of the task for the healing of the world.
3. Recognize the power of prayer.
Prayer is an essential part of building a personal and lasting relationship with God. Through prayer, we open our hearts to the will of God and set aside our own desires. By focusing our attention on God, we become more aware of those around us who are suffering and in need of our help. Prayer makes room for God in our hearts so that his desires might become our desires as well.
Today, let us become more diligent in our prayer. Consider praying this simple prayer: “Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours.” Through this simple prayer of surrender, we invite the Lord to show us where those around us are suffering and to enter into that suffering with them. Also, as we raise up the needs of this world, let us remember and be grateful for God’s faithfulness in our own lives.
4. Support those on the frontlines.
The recent pandemic has taken a severe toll on the disadvantaged, the poor and the vulnerable around the world. For those who are already suffering from poverty and displacement, this health crisis has only made daily life more challenging.
The missionaries who have dedicated their lives to serving these communities need support to be able to continue carrying out their mission. Spreading the peace of Christ to those who are suffering is more critical now than ever. While many communities see widespread suffering, those being served in Latin America, Asia and Africa are among those in most need.
Divine Word Missionaries are asking those who are able to consider supporting the COVID-19 relief fund to assist those who are suffering the most. In these trying times of unrest and uncertainty, we, the Church, need each other more than ever. We ask that you keep all of our missionaries in your prayers and rest assured of our prayers for you and your family.