BUT OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD
Most Reverend John H. Ricard, S.S.J.
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Chairman, Committee on International Policy
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
January 1, 2005
On this first day of 2005, we celebrate the World Day of Peace with a message from Pope John Paul II. The Holy Father invites us to begin this New Year by praying for a peace built on justice.
As we pause to reflect on the meaning of this special day, the Holy Father reminds us of the constant call to overcome evil with good. Looking at the present state of the world, the Pope notes the alarming spread of social and political manifestations of evil such as anarchy, war, injustice, violence and killings. He underlines the outbreaks of violence in Africa and Palestine, terrorist attacks and the situation in Iraq. In the face of these challenges, the Pope encourages us to heed the words of St. Paul: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
While the Holy Father’s entire message deserves our prayerful consideration, it has special implications for us who live in a nation that is blessed with such rich resources.
In this era of globalization, we are more aware of the interconnected nature of our world. Problems that were once far from our shores have become our own. We are compelled to look beyond our borders to places of poverty and despair that cry out for a response. The Pope urges us to take seriously our role as “citizens of the world,” recognizing that each one of us is called in some way to work for the universal common good, “constantly looking out for others.” Such citizenship has concrete responsibilities that should inform our consciences.
In a world that so often resorts to violence, the Pope’s message calls us to employ “the weapons of love” to defend human life and dignity. The Holy Father reminds us that all people are “united by a common origin and the same supreme destiny.” Every human life must be welcomed and cared for.
In the coming year, there will be important opportunities for us to show our compassion and solidarity with the poor and vulnerable – those who, according to the Pope, deserve our preferential love. This will require a “moral and economic mobilization” on the part of richer countries such as the United States to lighten the burdens on poor countries exacerbated by on-going debt payments, unfair trading practices and inadequate development assistance.
The challenge of poverty is deep and the despair that it breeds can foster violence. The Pope points to efforts by richer countries to make foreign assistance more effective in battling hunger and disease. We should not be deluded into thinking that the struggle against poverty is hopeless. With greater international collaboration and a genuine spirit of solidarity, the earth’s goods can be truly put at the service of humanity’s basic needs. Good can triumph over evil.
Economic growth in developing countries will not bring justice and peace unless the least well off share in its fruits. Equity must accompany development otherwise the chasm between rich and poor will continue to grow. In this regard, the Pope points to the special needs of Africa, home to many of the world’s poorest countries. In today’s interconnected world, if we can make real progress on the problems of Africa, the whole world would benefit. Progress will require a radical new direction for Africa, involving new forms of solidarity that will entail more effective and generous development assistance, special trade rules and a comprehensive resolution of the problem of poor-country debt.
A new year is an occasion for making a fresh start. The Pope urges us to face the trials and challenges of our world with an “invincible hope” in the power of redeemed humanity to overcome evil with good. Nourished by this hope, and sustained by our communion with Jesus the Redeemer, Christians can transcend differences of language, race and nationality to embrace a new creation where love prevails.
As we offer our prayers for peace, let us join with the intercession of Mary, Mother of God, whom we also honor this day. May our world be transformed into the likeness of her beloved Son, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.