Seek Christ’s peace, justice
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ bring peace to your heart! As our summer continues so pleasantly, it is easy perhaps to think that we need God less. But does it make any sense to turn to God less when he has blessed us more? The joys of this season should bring us closer to God in our gratitude, so that our faith will be the stronger to bear us up in future difficulties. God is always close to us, in every situation, as we know if we have the eyes of faith open to see.
One hundred years ago this month, the nations of Europe were attempting to avoid the outbreak of what would become “the Great War,” now called World War I. Their diplomacy failed in large part because they were not sincere in their desire for peace. Nobody, of course, wanted the war they ended up having, but neither did they expect such a war. They expected something like the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, which saw only a few weeks of active fighting. With such expectations, nations were quite willing to threaten war in order to gain concessions from their rivals. Each thought someone else would back down first. In the end, no one did back down, and threats of war turned into actions of war. Thus most of Europe, along with their global colonies, fell into the surreal slaughter of the next four years.
Recalling these events underscores the wisdom of Pope Paul VI, who, in his 1972 address for the World Day of Peace, paraphrased the great prophet Isaiah in saying, “If you want peace, work for justice” (see Is 32:17). He meant something quite specific by this, a Christ-centered and Scriptural concept of “peace” and “justice” that is not the same as our secular or cultural idea. He said, “[Peace] coincides with the supreme good of man as he makes his way through time….Peace is not treachery (see Job 15:21). Peace is not a lie made into a system (see Jer 6:14). Much less is it pitiless totalitarian tyranny. Nor is it, in any way, violence….[I]f we look for its true source, we find that it is rooted in a sincere feeling for man. A peace that is not the result of true respect for man is not true peace. And what do we call this sincere feeling for man? We call it justice.”
The world today, even our own beloved country, is not closer to this vision of peace and justice than it was four decades ago. The secular idea of justice does not see the individual human person, but only some of the person’s characteristics. Everyone is grouped and categorized, especially according to the criteria of race, class, and gender. “Justice” is reduced to the claim that this group is treated better or worse than that group, and almost any means are acceptable to enforce “equality,” even when doing so actually perpetrates more injustice and inequality. This is why some people cannot see a difference between “contraception” and “abortifacient,” for example, and why the person of the child in the womb who is killed, or the conscience of the person forced to assist, matters nothing to them.
The power of the law is great – and in general good and necessary, tending to peace and justice – but it is not great enough to weld together “justice” with “abortion” or “freedom of religion” with “check your conscience at the door.” Far too few of our friends and neighbors, even those who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ, have a concept of “peace” and “justice” informed by the word of God. Self-interest is not a reliable gauge of that “sincere feeling for others” of which Pope Paul VI preached. As citizens, we must not expect others to bend before our own self-interest, while threatening legislative or judicial “violence,” as the promoters of same-sex so-called marriage have done for the past decade. Such attitudes only provoke greater division, inviting retaliation with the same means and leading to more conflict.
Instead, we must truly seek the “supreme good,” as Pope Paul VI said, and do so with a “sincere feeling” for our neighbor which is Christ-like love. The supreme good is union with God in heaven, but even in purely worldly terms, there are universal things and ideas which point to God, helping us in this life to be open to His love and to final union with him. Most of these goods are knowable by reason, and in our traditional Catholic vocabulary we call this “natural law.” The final seven of the Ten Commandments are a worthy summary of the principles of this natural law, and the world would certainly be a much better place if all of us, especially those with power and influence, did a better job of living up to these principles.
As Catholics, we are, or should be, sincerely committed to Christ’s peace and justice. The worldly justice we pursue is only a reflection of perfect divine justice. Therefore, there can be no division between justice and truth, or between justice and the human person. This is why “evil may not be done, even if good may come of it,” and why “law serves the person, not the person the law.”
As we work and pray diligently for Christ’s peace and justice in our homes and our country, let us not neglect also to pray for our own conversion of heart and conformity to the saving passion of our Lord.
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop Nickless schedule for July 24 to August 24
July 24 – Sioux City Celebration of Mass and visit with residents, 10:30 a.m., Holy Spirit Retirement Home
July 25 – Sioux City Briar Cliff University Board of Trustees meeting, 8 a.m., Stark Student Center
July 26 – Sioux City Celebration of Mass at the 10th Charismatic Hispanic Congress, 9 a.m.,
July 27 – Manson Celebration of Mass at Camp Totus Tuus, 11:45 a.m., Twin Lakes Campground
July 31 – Sioux City Priests Pension Board meeting, 11 a.m., Chancery offices
August 3 – Sioux City Celebration of Mass, 5 p.m., Cathedral of the Epiphany
August 4-6 – Lake Okoboji Annual seminarian gathering, Vianney House
August 14 – Sioux City College of Consultors meeting, noon, Chancery Offices
August 17 – Sioux City Celebration of Mass, 5 p.m., Cathedral of the Epiphany
August 18 – Algona Groundbreaking ceremony, 6 p.m., Bishop Garrigan High School
August 19 – Sioux City Celebration of Mass and blessing of new fine arts building, 8:30 a.m.,
August 19-20 – South Sioux City New and reassigned priests meeting, Marina Inn
August 22 – Sioux City Blessing of new chapel and consecration of the altar, 4 p.m., Bishop Heelan High School
August 23 – Sioux City Celebration of Mass and Bishop’s Circle Membership Gathering, 4 p.m.,
August 24 – Ayrshire Celebration of Mass and 125th Anniversary, 10 a.m., Sacred Heart Church
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