Pax et Bonum Mass; January 29, 2013 (A)
2 Sm 7: 4-17 Ps 89 Mk 4:1-20
Deacon Jim McFadden; St. Francis High School
Pax et Bonum is the traditional Franciscan welcome and goodbye that our patron saint, Francis of Assisi, favored. He often began and ended his sermons and letters with this powerful statement. The question I pose before our community is whether this is a catchy, centuries old slogan, or is it a realistic challenge for us to live a certain way: to be people of peace and goodness? What do you say: slogan or challenge?
The first reading from 2 Samuel gives us a clue to this question. The prophet Nathan assures King David that God will raise up an heir who will not only make “his kingdom firm, …but will endure forever” (2 Sm 7:12,16). Nathan, of course, is prophesying about the Messiah, who came to us as Jesus of Nazareth. Besides being Immanuel or God among us, Jesus is also known as the Prince of Peace, which gets us back to our question.
Peace is far more than a truce between conflicting parties. That kind of “peace” is temporary and has no traction: it just doesn’t last if it’s generated solely from human effort; either party could change its mind and reopen the conflict at any time. Then what is it? Peace is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is mentioned in Galatians (5:22-23) and is the goal of Christian living. Specifically, what does Peace look like: St. Augustine defined it as the “tranquility of order” between human beings, which is the work of justice. In other words, we are called to treat others fairly, since we all are equal in God’s eyes because we are made in the image of God. Since, God is our Father, we are related to each other as a true sister and brother. Without our fraternity, without the sisterhood grounded in God it is impossible to build true peace., which is the only ground of true peace. No one is better, more worthy than any other. We do not use other people for our own ends, but delight in their uniqueness and are always open to how we can serve them and be served by them because we are brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. Without Him, we cannot build a just community at St. Francis High School nor could a solid and lasting peace be forged.
If we have been baptized, we are meant to imitate Jesus’ example of self-less giving, inclusion, and reconciliation. We are meant to participate in the divine life because, as St. Paul proclaims, we “have been clothed with Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27). Indeed, “We have been grafted on Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27), which means we are most fully a Christian, we’re most fully human when we do what Jesus does: namely, to bring peace to all our relationships. When we say “yes” to Jesus, when we surrender our entire being to him, all his powers now work through us. We will become peacemakers.
Bonum or ‘goodness’ also flows from our relationship with Jesus. As Jesus teaches us, we love God by loving our neighbor, which means we serve our brothers and sisters where there is a need. We have Jesus as our model. ‘Goodness’ simply means to will the good of others. I remember the story about an elite runner, whose performance was deteriorating because he was so anxious before the race started? Why? He saw his fellow runners as rivals, who could obstruct his desire to win. Gradually, he began to see others as his brothers (and sisters), who are participating in the running endeavor. So, just before he settled into his starting block, he willed that all the runners in the race, not just himself, would run their personal best. And, you know what was a happy consequence? His anxiety dissolved!
Isn’t this good news?! But, there is an obstacle that gets in the way of willing the good for others. Our Holy Father Francis has preached on this topic no less than six times since he began his awesome pontificate. Can you guess what the obstacle is which hurts relationships? I’ll give you a hint: it occurs in Serra Court and sadly in the faculty lounge. I’m not proud to say that I’ve engaged in this curse myself: GOSSIP!
Last spring, Pope Francis said at morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae (March 27, 2013) that when we gossip, we are stabbing the person in the back. For some reason we derive some pleasure from scandal mongering. When our conversation turns to gossip, the Pope says that we “begin to tear the other person to pieces.” When we gossip, we close our hearts; we have no
understanding of the genuine worth of the other; we have no love or friendship for the person we are tearing down.
Troubies, that’s the challenge. If we are going to live Pax et Bonum, we must be conformed to the Mind and Heart of Jesus, who brought Peace . . . and did not gossip! And, since we are the Body of Christ, the Church, we are called to do the same. If you’re tempted to gossip, remember what St. Vincent de Paul said: “How would Christ do this?”
As I see it, we have a lofty challenge, especially as Troubies of St. Francis, to mirror peace and goodness to everyone and in all our endeavors. It is a lofty challenge, but I know we can do it!
So, do we want to be people of Pax et Bonum?