The Council Fathers tell us in Gaudium et Spes that every human being has an obligation to strive for world peace, and even the secular world seems to have gotten the message. Well, sort of… Just ask Miss America.
The desire for world peace is more than just a beauty pageant catchphrase, of course. In fact, if my experience is any indication; it’s become a populist slogan that is parroted by lots of people that no one really wants to see at the beach. So how cliché has seeking world peace become?
I’m sure, like me, you too have seen the bumper sticker: VISUALIZE WORLD PEACE. Have you also noticed that it’s often paired with a BE GOOD TO MOTHER EARTH sticker, while in many cases an Obama-Biden decal completes the tree-huggin’ triptych? Be forewarned, if you ever find yourself behind a hybrid so adorned, these folks only know how to turn left; so pay attention. But I digress…
When I see VISUALIZE WORLD PEACE on the car in front of me at a red light, or pulling into a shopping center parking lot, I have this overwhelming urge to go up, tap on the driver’s window and give the universal “roll it down” gesture and say:
“Excuse me. Do you really want to visualize world peace? Not just some fairytale ‘can’t-we-all-just-get-along’ exercise in über-tolerance, but the closest thing to world peace you could ever hope to see in this life? Yea? Well visualize this: a world in which each and every human being on the planet is fully and visibly incorporated into the Holy Roman Catholic Church. How do you like me now?”
I know… this approach wouldn’t go over very well. I can imagine it would sound pretty self-righteous; in fact, it might even sound a bit arrogant to some of my faithful Catholic readers too. If this describes you, I understand, but hear this; it’s time to put away the false humility and plainly acknowledge the simple fact that a world in which every single human person is Catholic – I mean truly Catholic – is God’s will, and this is exactly what world peace in this life would look like.
Oh really? Says who? Well, the Council Fathers; that’s who.
Do they say so as plainly as I just did? No. I kind of wish they had. That, however, wouldn’t have been any more prudent than me acting on the urge to tap on some stranger’s car window, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
In any event, this is exactly what the Council teaches, and not just the Council as if this is something new; it’s not – it’s one of the most basic tenets of our faith to say that God wills that each and every human person be Catholic. And we can say with utter confidence that this is what world peace would look like for the simple reason that being in God’s will is the very definition of peace.
“While faithfully adhering to the Gospel and fulfilling her mission to the world, the Church, whose duty it is to foster and elevate all that is found to be true, good and beautiful in the human community, strengthens peace among men for the glory of God” (GS 76).
Yes, the Church has a duty to uphold all that is true and good among men, but not as end unto itself as though applauding the thread of truth found in other religions is enough; it’s not. The Church is called to “adhere to the Gospel and to fulfill Her mission to the world,” and we all know what that mission is:
To make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded – not just some, not just the highlights, not just a thread – but all (cf Mt. 28:19-20).
This necessarily means converting the world to the Holy Catholic Church that Jesus founded for our salvation. With so many Nancy Pelosi’s running around telling the world how “Catholic” they are, now seems a great time for a refresher course on what this really means.
According to the Council, to be Catholic means being “fully incorporated in the society of the Church, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accepting her entire system and all the means of salvation given to Her, united with Her as part of her visible bodily structure and through Her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops” (LG 14).
If ever the point was reached — unattainable though it may be — where this described every person throughout the entire world, then the world will have achieved the pinnacle of peace in this life – not perfect peace, but as close we could ever get in this life.
So, repeat after me: God wills that every human being be fully incorporated into the Holy Catholic Church, accepting Her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her. This is our faith. Is it a secret? Of course not, but how many times have you ever heard anyone say it aloud? My guess is not very often.
Now I’m not suggesting that you go down to the town square and shout this until you get arrested, but I am suggesting that you acknowledge this simple truth of our faith. Don’t run from it, embrace it, and by all means share it as is appropriate. Appropriate, not easy.
Sharing this fundamental truth of our faith with your non-Catholic friends and acquaintances will no doubt disturb them on some level, but Jesus the Prophet to whom we’re configured in baptism did nothing if not disturb His listeners out of their complacency, and why? So they might know what true peace is all about.
We get so caught up in tolerance and getting along these days that we often lose sight of the truth that God wills for all to enter into full communion with His Holy Catholic Church.
Now don’t misunderstand, there’s nothing wrong with tolerance, per se – God knows we all need it. There’s nothing wrong with getting along either, but let’s not confuse “getting along” with having peace; they’re not the same. The Council Fathers tell us, “Peace is not merely the absence of war; nor can it be reduced solely to the maintenance of a balance of power” (GS 78).
“Earthly peace results from the peace of Christ which radiates from God the Father… for by His Cross the incarnate Son, the Prince of Peace, reconciled all men with God… restoring all men to the unity of one people and one body, He slew hatred in His own flesh; and, after being lifted on high by His resurrection, He poured forth the spirit of love into the hearts of men” (ibid).
Human beings respond to God’s outpouring of love in thousands of different ways, often in the practice of religion, but let’s be clear, there is only one way to respond according to God’s will; the Way. And so God wills that all should come to Him through, with, and in His Son.
How often we settle for “bumper sticker peace” instead of seeking to build the real thing; that authentic peace that will come only when each one is a member of Christ’s Body…
We have grown so used to living in a culture that worships the false god of “diversity” that we have all but ignored the very reason the world has so many different kinds of religion in the first place; sin. Yes, the uniqueness of individual persons created in God’s image is a wonderful gift, but the fact that there are Methodists, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and so on is not a cause for celebration; it’s the lamentable result of original sin.
And the remedy for this lack of unity can be found in its fullness in only one place; in the Body of Christ, the Catholic Church. Get comfortable acknowledging it; this is our faith.
Now before you congratulate yourself for being the picture of peace just because you’re Catholic, know this – you’re not there just yet. The Council tells us that in this life, “peace is never attained once and for all, but must be built up ceaselessly” (ibid). This is true of the world in general, but it’s also true of us as individuals.
We must build up peace in ourselves through an increasingly more perfect union with the Lord and His will, apart from which we’ll be unable to strive for peace in the world at large in any meaningful way. Our striving for peace starts with ourselves, but it can’t end there; we must become faithful and fearless evangelists.