Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

In the first reading proclaimed this Sunday, we hear the Lord tell us through the prophet Isaiah: “Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed. The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to him, loving the name of the LORD, and becoming his servants— all who keep the Sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

It is very timely and good for us to hear this oracle from the Lord these days when we have witnessed terrorist attacks, displays of racism, threats of war and many other violent acts.

There is no doubt that we live in restless times that lead many to forget that we are all brothers and sisters since we share in our common human nature with every single human being that ever was, is or will be, regardless of any other consideration.

Indeed, every single person, because of the mere fact of their existence shares with each and every one of us our humanity. This fact is even more relevant for us, Christians, because not only they share it with us, they share it with Jesus Christ, true God and true man. Therefore, in every human being we recognize our humanity which is also that of Christ. This means that beyond any difference there is a deep bond that unites us all. As St. Paul explains in the letter to the Galatians, any difference that may exist between human beings is overcome by our communion in Christ. There is no more Gentile or Jew because we are one in Christ. The first reading this Sunday highlights that universal communion that exists in God.

The Lord assumes that human nature that is present in every one of us simply on account of our existence. Our human condition is not determined by any of our attributes much less any external consideration. Not even the moral qualities of the person, much less his or her appearance, or abilities, or physical condition, or origin, or religion, certainly not the role they play in society alters the fact that every single human being is my brother or sister because they share with me the same human nature assumed by Christ, even those who might be my enemies, my adversaries, my competitors, even those who mean harm to me.

The last encyclical published by Pope St. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, Peace on earth, written during the hottest moments of the “cold war” reminds us that “the fact that he is a citizen of a particular State does not deprive him of membership in the human family, nor of citizenship in that universal society, the common, world-wide fellowship of men.”

There is no question that we are living in very difficult times when it becomes relatively easy to forget this fact and begin to regard the other especially if they are different as a threat to me.

On more than one occasion Pope Francis has said that we are witnessing the unfolding of World War Three in stages. As we know, Pope Pius XII was elected in March 1939, barely a few months before the outbreak of World War II. His first encyclical, Summi Pontificatus, published in October of that year, barely a month and a half after the beginning of the war with the Nazi invasion of Poland, denounces racism, war and many other evils that sadly remain in this twenty-first century. In the face of the temptation to have recourse to violence to eradicate these evils, the Pope asserted prophetically:

“No, Venerable Brethren, safety does not come to peoples from external means, from the sword which can impose conditions of peace but does not create peace. Forces that are to renew the face of the earth should proceed from within, from the spirit.

Once the bitterness and the cruel strifes of the present have ceased, the new order of the world, of national and international life, must rest no longer on the quicksands of changeable and ephemeral standards that depend only on the selfish interests of groups and individuals. No, they must rest on the unshakable foundation, on the solid rock of natural law and of Divine Revelation. There the human legislator must attain to that balance, that keen sense of moral responsibility, without which it is easy to mistake the boundary between the legitimate use and the abuse of power. Thus, only will his decisions have internal consistency, noble dignity and religious sanction, and be immune from selfishness and passion.

For true though it is that the evils from which mankind suffers today come in part from economic instability and from the struggle of interests regarding a more equal distribution of the goods which God has given man as a means of sustenance and progress, it is not less true that their root is deeper and more intrinsic, belonging to the sphere of religious belief and moral convictions which have been perverted by the progressive alienation of the peoples from that unity of doctrine, faith, customs and morals which once was promoted by the tireless and beneficent work of the Church. If it is to have any effect, the reeducation of mankind must be, above all things, spiritual and religious. Hence, it must proceed from Christ as from its indispensable foundation; must be actuated by justice and crowned by charity.”

St. Thomas Aquinas taught that peace is tranquility within order. We are builders of peace when we open our hearts to the love of God that heals our wounds and we work together so that our social life and our laws observe what is right and do what is just according to the natural order accessible to human reason with the help of grace.

 

Fr. Roberto M. Cid