Conference blog #6: Reflecting on Francis’ message

Matt Jeziorski is the education coordinator for Pax Christi, a Catholic peace organisation actively educating and campaigning for a more just and peaceful world. Here are his reflections on the message Pope Francis gave on New Year’s Day and how we might accept the challenge of peace.

Reflection on Pope Francis’s message for World Peace Day 2014

In his message for World Day of Peace (1 January) Pope Francis reflects on what peace is and how it is to be built. In placing fraternity as the foundation for peacebuilding he imagines a world where, recognising one another as brothers and sisters, indifference is impossible and we become deeply concerned with the sufferings of others. Other people, nations, and communities are not commodities to be exploited in order to maintain or promote one’s own power and prestige. They are our neighbours and helpers in building the common good.

A natural consequence of this is that violent conflict becomes impossible when we see a brother or a sister to be loved where once we saw an enemy to be beaten or conquered. Yet Pope Francis goes further than dealing solely with armed conflict and also considers the ‘less visible but no less cruel war fought in the economic and financial sectors’ which are similarly destructive of lives, families, and businesses.

His call is that every interaction with the other, every transaction, every relationship be rooted in love and service in order that the foundations for peace are secure.

This is a message that challenges how we live from day to day. If we are serious about loving and serving all other people then not only does it demand that we work for the ending of the crime of warfare and the sinful arms trade but it demands plenty of us with regard to the smaller things.

The cost of my food and clothing says a great deal about the value I place on the people and planet that produces it. The welcome extended to the asylum seeker and the economic migrant will differ if they are seen as family rather than a threat to our jobs, culture, and way-of-life. And the delight in what I own will only be enhanced as I remember that the right use of my wealth and possessions is in serving my poorer, weaker, and more vulnerable sisters and brothers.

The Catholic Church in England and Wales celebrated Peace Sunday last weekend (19 January), where we reflect particularly in our liturgy on this peace message of the Holy Father. It may cause some discomfort in the pews.

If I am to heed this call to lay aside selfishness so I can truly respond to Pope Francis’s call to love and service – which simply echoes Christ’s own commandment that we are to love one another – then I must be willing to consider how I, daily, can love and serve my neighbour however near or far she may be. Then I can be confident that I am helping lay the foundations for peace.

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