Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pax Domini, Pax Christi

Fourth Sunday of Advent Year C

The world has become “more peaceful” for the first time since 2009, according to the 2012 Global Peace Index. This assessment might seem surprising given that our media is often peppered by news of violence and conflict on both the national and international front. But I guess these figures are treated with the same incredulity as the report that our National Crime Rate has dropped. Perhaps, one can hide behind semantics as some critics would claim – it’s just a matter of definition or the result of skilful propaganda. If peace is just merely the absence of war, then the Index is correct. Two millennia ago, the Romans too boasted of having imposed a peace throughout their vast empire, which they unabashedly named Pax Romana (Latin: "Roman peace"). But the Romans regarded peace not as an absence of war, but the rare situation that existed when all opponents had been beaten down and lost the ability to resist. The Americans seem to have taken over where the Romans left off with their “Big Stick” policy – beat your enemies into submission.

But the “Big Stick” ideology has failed miserably as a solution for world peace as evidenced by the proliferation of terrorist activities and groups in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and Israel’s treatment of belligerent groups within and outside its borders. The prevalence of the enemies of peace is now more pronounced that before, though they may be less conspicuous than a conventional army. In the recent James Bond movie ‘Skyfall”, when M, the superior of the illustrious agent 007, was called to a ministerial inquiry to explain herself, she painted the bleak scenario of a post Cold War world, where one had to contend and fight with unknown enemies who hide “in the shadows.”  This is not the first time a human solution has failed. Hitler’s Final Solution, which killed millions of Jews and others too, ended in greater misery and yet no peace was in sight. Over the centuries, man has continued to invent and experiment with various options in the hope that he would finally find a solution that will ensure lasting peace. Human ideologies such as Pelagianism, Communism, National Socialism, Capitalism, Humanism, all share a common belief, that man is capable of improving the world without the interference of God. This optimism in man’s ability to shape his future lay side by side with the view that religion and God are nothing more than liabilities. None of these human experiments, however, proved successful.

So this is the paradox of peace: we realise that though the concept of peace is easy to grasp as far as we all desire it; the dilemmas of peace are more complex, and the implementation of peace even harder. It is no wonder that many have grown sceptical that peace is attainable, a mere Utopian dream. But today’s readings assert the good news that peace is within our reach. Peace is not a dream or something utopian; it is possible. It is true that we cannot manufacture peace. But God can. Peace is possible whenever we align our purpose and will with God’s. To have peace is to trust in God. If sin, through man’s disobedience, is the cause of disharmony and disorder in the world, peace is a recovery of that order, when man submits himself to the will and plan of God. Therefore, St Augustine appropriately described peace as tranquillitas ordinis, the tranquillity of order.

Therefore, it is not ideologies that save the world, but only an unconditional return to the living God, our Creator, the guarantor of our freedom, and the guarantor of what is really good and true; and who at the same time is everlasting love. And what could ever save us apart from love? Love takes delight in truth, it is the force that enables us to make a commitment to truth, to justice, to peace, because it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (cf. 1 Cor 13:1-13). True peace comes when we place our faith in Christ, because “He is our Peace.” True peace comes only when we embrace the truth that He is the author, worker, and perfecter of our faith. Choosing Christ does not guarantee success according to the criteria of today’s world, but ensures that peace and joy that only He can give. Peace comes when we acknowledge that God is in control and surrender to his charge.

One of the modern myths that have arisen from our age which lives under the tyranny of political correctness is that Truth is the enemy of peace and the cause of violence. Political correctness sells us the lie that in order to maintain peace, one needs to either suppress or relativise the Truth. Proponents of this argument are quick to cite the Crusades. Of course it is correct that Truth has been much abused in history. Intolerance and cruelty have occurred in the name of truth. But the problem lies not in Truth but in man’s sinfulness. Man refuses to acknowledge the truth concerning his own sinfulness and therefore makes Truth the scapegoat. Violence is the result of the distortion of truth and never because of its exposition. Saint Augustine once asked: “Quid enim fortius desiderat anima quam veritatem? – What does man desire more deeply than truth?” How can man truly be at peace when he is denied that which he longs above all else? And the truth is this: the world cannot know peace if it does not know God.

When addressing the International Theological Commission at the conclusion of their Plenary Assembly this month, Pope Benedict XVI reminded the members of the Commission and the whole Church that faith in God is faith in the Lord who radically rejects all forms of hatred and violence in favour of the absolute primacy of Love.  The Holy Father asserts that “it is the forgetfulness of God that immerses human societies in a form of relativism, which inevitably generates violence. When you deny the opportunity for people to refer to an objective truth, dialogue is rendered impossible and violence, whether declared or hidden, becomes the rule of law of human relationships. Without openness to the transcendent, which allows us to find answers to questions on the meaning of life and how to live a moral life, mankind becomes unable to act in accordance with justice and work for peace.”

The Holy Father has also reminded the whole Church on the occasion of the World of Day of Peace 2011, that “all Catholics in every part of the world have a duty to proclaim and embody ever more fully the ''Gospel of Peace'', and to show that acknowledgment of the full truth of God is the first, indispensable condition for consolidating the truth of peace. God is Love which saves, a loving Father who wants to see his children look upon one another as brothers and sisters, working responsibly to place their various talents at the service of the common good of the human family. God is the unfailing source of the hope which gives meaning to personal and community life. God, and God alone, brings to fulfilment every work of good and of peace. History has amply demonstrated that declaring war on God in order to eradicate him from human hearts only leads a fearful and impoverished humanity toward decisions which are ultimately futile.”

So, peace is not just the absence of conflict or war. Neither can peace just be manufactured by our human machinations and ideological formulations. Peace is a gift of God and if the world has forgotten this truth as the world has often forgotten God, how can it ever discover or recover the gift of peace? The world needs God. What the world requires today is not another Pax Romana, or Pax Americana. or Pax Communism. What world needs today is Pax Domini, Pax Christi, the Peace of the Lord, the Peace of Christ, because “He is Peace.” Jesus is indeed our peace, our justice and our reconciliation.

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