The Proclamation of Peace

The Second Vatican Council’s Decree Ad Gentes on the Mission Activity of the Church emphasizes that Christ, the Son of God, was sent by the Father “in order to establish peace or the communion of sinful human beings with Himself, as well as to fashion them into a fraternal community” (Ad Gentes, 3). The very moment of Jesus’ birth speaks of peace destined to rest upon the people with whom God is well pleased (cf. Lk 2:14. Moreover, the Apostle Paul says without hesitation that Christ “is our peace” (Eph. 2:14). One can confidently say that true peace is the result of forgiveness and that every Christian “can make a great contribution to the prosperity of mankind and to the peace of the world” (Gaudium et spes, 72). As a true disciple of Jesus, the baptized person is obliged to be mindful of the words: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:9). In living the Beatitudes, the disciple contributes to the fulfillment of one of the Church’s missionary tasks, which is to create community among people[1].
It is clear that St. Francis’ exhortation to peace has not lost its relevance The times in which he lived were full of disputes and quarrels and, as a result, wars. St. Francis often focused on this theme in his preaching. He drew inspiration from the evangelical texts to proclaim peace. He was particularly fond of using greetings such as, “Peace be to this house!” (Lk 10:5; Later Rule 3:13 FF 86), and, “May the Lord give you peace.” (Nm 6:24-26; Testament 23 FF 121). “During various conflicts…Francis would extend the formula of his greeting to the dimensions of a sermon and often successfully invoke peace”[2]. St. Bonaventure called the Seraphic father an “angel of peace,” and this was based on the evidence of Francis’ his own life, which was permeated with the contents of the Good News. When Francis himself experienced reconciliation, he wished that others might encounter the God of peace, too. Thus, the exhortation: “Forgive and you shall be forgiven” (Earlier Rule 21:5 FF 55)[3] was often heard in Franciscan preaching.
There are concrete examples confirming the truth of these words, such as when Francis preached peace to the citizens of Arezzo, Siena, and Bologna. “The entire content of his words was aimed at extinguishing hatred and laying the foundations for new peace pacts….God gave his words such effectiveness that many powerful families, among whom the unbridled anger of long-standing hatred had erupted to the point of bloodshed, yielded to his advice leading to peace”[4].
Francis’ journey to the Holy Land reveals his message, which was so characteristic of his mission, namely, that he desired a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Francis was not a knight of the Crusade; he was a pilgrim who was concerned with converting the Saracens—”more by example than by word”[5]. This attitude made Francis and his friars “messengers of the Gospel and of peace”[6] and the words they spoke, “Peace and All Good”, were “like the motto of Franciscan evangelization”[7].
These words and this approach resonate with today’s missionary, because, as St. John Paul II writes, “The missionary is the ‘universal brother,’” and also, “He is a sign of God’s love in the world—a love without exclusion or partiality.” (Redemptoris Missio, 89). He brings peace, through Jesus Christ, to those who are far and those who are near (cf. Eph 2:17).

Friar Dariusz MAZUREK
General Delegate for Missionary Animation

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[1] Cf. J. Esquerda Bifet, Diccionario de la evangelización, Madrid 1998, 565-566.
[2] W. Egger, L. Lehmann, A. Rotzetter, Franciszek niesie pokój, in: Duchowość franciszkańska, Wrocław 1992, file. 21, 1,8-9.
[3] Cf. L. Iriarte, Powołanie franciszkańskie. Synteza ideałów św. Franciszka i św. Klary, Cracow 1999, 262-263.
[4] Ibid. 264.
[5] R. Manselli, Francisco de Asís entre conversión del mundo cristiano y conversión del mundo islámico. ¿Una relación atípica?, in: Para mejor conocer a san Francisco de Asís, Oñate (Guipúzcoa) 1997, 280, 282.
[6] F. Uribe Escobar, La vida religiosa según san Francisco de Asís, Oñate (Guipúzcoa) 1982, 99.
[7] E. Caroli, Evangelizar y contemplar, Selecciones de Franciscanismo 18 (1977), 285.