by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18)
“Write down the vision
Clearly upon the tablets so that one can read it readily.
For the vision still has its time
Presses on to fulfillment and will not disappoint
If it delays, wait for it – it will surely come, it will not be late.” (Habakkuk 2:23)
One modern Scripture scholar offers a unique interpretation of Jesus’s instruction on Resurrection morning, carried by the women disciples to the men, that they should leave Jerusalem and go back to Galilee. He sees it as a call for the Eleven to return to where the whole drama of Jesus’s life began: his prophetic preaching, conflicts with the powerful, capture, crucifixion and finally his resurrection. According to this opinion, the Lord wanted the Eleven to “take it from the top,” as the saying goes, given the fact that they never seemed to understand what those three years were all about. Whatever the value of this interpretation it does underscore the value of going back to fundamentals, to the originating vision in any movement.
This is never more true than today when the whole world is being shaken by the pandemic. There is the need to go back to what have been our deepest values, values which have inspired and shaped us, especially as Pax Christi USA. Pope Francis is calling our attention to an historic challenge with his frequent reflections on the present moment in human history and one, I believe, which touches our movement deeply.
Just this past week in a wonderful editorial, the Holy Father reflected on the Gospel phrase “who will roll away the stone” (Mark 16:3), asking in today’s language, “How will we deal with this situation that has completely overtaken us?” I believe that we, as individual members of Pax Christi USA and collectively as the Catholic peace movement here and now, have an important word to say and actions to take in response to the pope’s burning question.
In our mission statement it says in part: “We are called to act for justice and be of generous service…” This is our originating vision, our Galilee reflection. And it has enormous consequences for today’s global threat “which has completely overtaken us”.
Once again, the pope puts into words some of what those consequences are. He speaks of the women disciples as they bravely proceed to anoint the broken, dead body of Jesus despite their mortal fears of reprisal from Jesus’ executioners. In citing these actions, Francis implicitly calls us who call ourselves to “generous service” that we join in the anointing poured out by “doctors, nurses, warehouse workers, cleaners, caretakers, transporters, security forces, volunteers, priests, nuns, grandparents and educators”, those who are giving everything they have to “bring a little healing, calm and soul to the situation.” In a word there is something each of us can do in our own circles inspired by these challenges from the Holy Father, the challenges of the heroic people he mentions and the challenges of our own mission statement, “action for justice—generous service to all.”
Finally, and perhaps most important of all, our declaration that we are to “act for justice” translates today into a common, prophetic task for the United States section of Pax Christi International. Just as Jesus confronted the meanness and duplicity of his own country’s leadership, we have to answer the crying need to combat the violent and ugly mindsets which the xenophobia in some of our national leadership are cultivating. They are a cancer in the body politic of this country and will continue to cause immense suffering to the rest of the world.
Once again, the pope: “We [Pax Christi USA] cannot afford to write the present and future history with our backs turned to the suffering of so many” across the globe. May Pax Christi USA help to stir up “that reservoir of hope, faith and charity in which we were begotten and which, for so long, we have anesthetized or silenced!”
Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.
One thought on “Act for justice, be of generous service”
Against a foreboding backdrop of those who’d minimize or deny or even exploit the unfair distribution of suffering under COVID-19, simple Christian witness seems even more daunting…But Father Joe, with Pope Francis, have the gift of making the Bible come alive, lighting and pushing back on the dread around us. And ’tis the flame we must cling to.