It is sad that in spite of strategies planned by wishful-thinking promoters of peace, social order and religious updating, in general society keeps plummeting from bad to worse.
At the grass roots level, the world needs Christ's lasting peace; it needs genuine human relations and an inner joy, germinated in a Godly-oriented conscience.
In spite of modern technology and ensuing material progress, which is meant to be an efficient service to humanity, people are experiencing the trauma of living in constant fear of each other. It is more of a regression than anything else.
We Christians must be in the forefront to lead by good example, and convince the world that Christ and Christian models are absolutely needed for the solution of human problems. Experience testifies that human endeavour, without God's intervention, fails. Gimmickry and charades of any sort will not work, either, particularly in spiritual and moral absolutes, as truth cannot be compromised nor faith trifled with.
Fully aware of our needs, Our Blessed Lord provided us with an accurate map by His teachings, as a directory, to guide us now on our journey, and to lead us to eternal salvation. Besides my gift of Faith, I appeal strongly to Christ because I am a contented Christian and a Catholic priest, at that.
Even common sense persuades me that Christ is totally right. The invisible God, in time and space, revealed Himself to us by sending the Second person of the Blessed Trinity who became man in every respect except sin, to speak our language and tell us about his Eternal Father.
Jesus, God made man, revealed that he equally shared in his Father's Divinity: "I and the Father are one"; "I am as equal as my Father who is in heaven"; "I am as perfect as my Father"; "He who sees me sees the Father who sent me".
Jesus' exemplary life, teachings, miracles and Resurrection authenticate his dual human and divine natures. He tells us: "I am the way, the truth and the life" and invites us to follow him, and we will be right. To some extent, Jesus is advising us not to be intimidated by the evils thriving around us. In fact, often we wonder and say: "What is the world is coming to?" Bad news prominently marks human events; crime reigns supreme and the marginalised victims are left to fend for themselves; oftentimes, the defenders of truth are pushed to the back burner.
Our Faith is our strength. We are not to fear crises as our Christian calling is rooted in sharing the life of Our Divine Saviour whose own life was marked by crisis, too. In fact, his mission comes to its ultimate crisis in the Last Supper. Jesus has gathered his disciples around him in a bond of supreme charity; Judas has already sold him; Peter is about to deny him, and most of his disciples will run away.
Jesus' life seems to be drifting away towards failure and defeat, but it is at this moment of crisis that he performs that most hopeful gesture. He takes bread and gives it to the disciples, saying: "This is my body given for you; take and drink, this is my blood ...".
When the Christian community is going to pieces, Jesus proclaims the New Covenant. Every Eucharist that we celebrate enacts the memory of this crisis, endured and transcended. We have nothing to fear from the current crisis. The Church was born in a crisis, and through its history it endured severe crises. But it survived and will continue to do so, until the end of time, as Christ has promised.
This survival is further assisted by our Christian models' exemplary lives as they braved dungeons, fires and sword in defence of Christ and his truthful teachings; full of joy, they suffered martyrdom with songs of praise on their lips.
Notable among these, St Francis of Assisi faced trials with joy and courage; he overcome unwarranted criticism; emaciated by penance and stigmata in his frail body, he fearlessly ignored his opponents' ridicule and succeeded in founding the Franciscan Order which enriched the Church with numerous saints. They, in their lifetimes, exerted a tremendous impact of holiness and conversions in strife-torn societies.
Striving to be an image of the suffering Christ, St Francis' joy was that of a poor man who received his Faith and everything else as a gift. Grateful to God, he blessed and admired the beauty of nature around him, singing praises. Focussing on the crucified Christ, owning nothing, he lived in a world of generosity. The common gentry, and also the nobility, were edified by his poverty, humility and happiness in serving God and people.
St Francis grew up in violent, feudal wars, and in a community ripped apart by rivalries, ambitions, greed for power, and an influence of foreign cultures that aimed to interfere with the established religion of the people. He preached peace not only by his generous message, but also by his charismatic spirit of personal worldly detachments and intense love for Christ. He was successful.
The suffering of this new world is global and requires a global Christian presence. May people, everywhere, see each other and God through the eyes of the poverello St Francis of Assisi, the Herald of Peace.
Fr Sebastian Camilleri OFM works at the St Francis of Assisi Centre, Rosanna, in the Melbourne Archdiocese.