by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
Again this week, the words of Jesus in last Sunday’s Gospel continue to resound: “I have come so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
By this standard life in abundance is God’s will for the entire human family and Jesus demonstrated what that means. He lived a full life in every way: he had intimate relationships; a deep compassion for the poor and the oppressed; he preached a message of peace based on justice; he confronted the unjust power structures of his time; he did not shrink from the consequences of that confrontation. Living his way brings a different kind of abundance in oneself and to the world. It is not a matter of acquiring increasing wealth, possessions, status or influence. Jesus’s abundance is found in a “Second Mountain” which journalist David Brooks writes about. Instead of climbing the First Mountain of the so-called American dream, he says, the second climb reveals that in losing oneself we find our true selves; we become a gift to the world, and, in the end, paradoxically we get everything back.
Obviously, this is just an echo of what Jesus said in another context: “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25).
Half a century ago Saint Pope Paul VI wrote about these Gospel insights in somewhat different but no less compelling terms. In his encyclical, On the Development of Peoples, the Pope laid out an upward scale of increasingly clear hallmarks of a life in abundance. These ideas bear repetition, particularly in these days when we continue to analyze this completely new global experience, its challenges for the human family and the role Pax Christi must play in it.
The encyclical declared that the abundant life means a transition from less-than-human conditions to truly human ones. As we paraphrase these steps, we will inevitably have in mind the state of humanity today.
Less human to more human:
- First of all, acquisition of the basic needs for a modicum of a decent life: food, shelter and clothing.
- Then, overcoming social evils which deny the development of the human person: unjust economic systems, unemployment and underemployment (that offend a person’s self esteem and which deny the worker a living wage), the failure to recognize the dignity of each individual, and national and international conflicts.
- Quality education;
- Acquiring a love for beauty;
- A growing sense of other people’s dignity despite ethnic, national or religious differences;
- Freedom from the need for wealth, power or status as necessary for happiness;
- An active interest and commitment to the common good and working for peace;
- Above all, the acceptance of the gift of faith—given by God to people of good will…
These considerations must concern us and occupy our minds in this time of cosmic transition. They influence every part of our lives—the way we treat ourselves, our families, our circle of friends and acquaintances. They affect our own country where clearly life in abundance is denied to a large portion of our citizens and to our immigrant sisters and brothers. They extend to the world beyond our shores, especially to the Global South.
So much is being written today about the “new normal” as the Covid-19 pandemic gradually subsides. However, most of these projections have to do with life in the United States. Pax Christi on the other hand has global perspectives on the “new normal,” one that calls into question any return to the former “normal” and—with God’s help —dedicates itself to the vision being articulated continually by Pope Francis.
The Holy Father said recently, for example, “If there is one thing we have been able to learn in all this time, it is that no one saves themselves by themselves. Borders fall, walls collapse, and all fundamentalist discourses dissolve before an almost imperceptible presence that manifests the fragility of which we are made. The Easter Season calls us and invites us to remember that other discreet and respectful, generous and reconciling Presence capable of not breaking the broken reed or extinguishing the weakly burning wick so as to make the new life that He wants to give us all pulse again.”
Life in abundance.
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.