Our Pilgrimage of Peace delegation arrived in Tokyo Tuesday afternoon. Storms had flights literally at a standstill as we approached, requiring us to make lazy loops out over the Pacific, and again the standstill even after we landed. We finally checked in to the hotel around 5:00pm. We forced ourselves to stay up until after dinner, and thus adjust to the local time as we begin this journey.
This morning, I went for a stroll around the grounds. As I stood at the fish pond, I took in the beauty of nature and noticed how all the diversity was in a peaceful relationship, working for the common good of all – from the Divine Creator – to the waterfall, the pond, the fish, the sky and clouds, the sun, the plants, the sounds of stillness and running water, birds and this solitary soul taking it all in; it all filled my soul with a profound sense of peace. There is great instruction in this scene for our Pilgrimage of Peace
Pope St. John XXIII in his 1963 Encyclical, Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) began with these words:
Peace on Earth—which man throughout the ages has so longed for and sought after—can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent observance of the divinely established order.
This divinely established order is what we witness every time we enjoy nature, or prayer, or a fond relationship, or even exercising our work or favorite hobby. For peace to flourish, we want to recall and nurture the fact that each person is a member of the human family, a citizen of the universal society, deserving of the same respect we ourselves request and require.
In essence, cultivating respect for one another and all God created is of great importance for the one who longs for peace. Another thing I have witnessed in my short time here in Tokyo is the tremendous respect these people demonstrate towards others and their environment. While there is much new about the city of Tokyo, there is also a great part of the old structure still in tact and in use. And, it is all clean! Even this morning, I noticed two hotel staff members standing respectfully alongside a taxi as a few guests were departing, and as the taxi drove away, the staff members bowed. Resect.
Our human dignity requires us to enjoy freedom in association with others, recognizing each one’s rights while at the same time being mindful of one’s own duties. Perhaps in our American society today there is too much of a one-sided focus on individual rights, while not giving sufficient attention to one’s own dignity and the reciprocal duty that comes to each person.
Pope St. John XXIII goes on to say in his encyclical:
Hence, before a society can be considered well-ordered, creative, and consonant with human dignity, it must be based on truth. St. Paul expressed this as follows: “Putting away lying, speak ye the truth every man with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” And so will it be, if each man acknowledges sincerely his own rights and his own duties toward others. (No. 34)
While God has manifested himself to people in various ways throughout the course of history, for us as Christians, the fulness of God’s revelation comes in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus reminded people during his preaching that there are two great commandments, to love God and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. This is at the heart of a vibrant society. Peace demands we be guided by justice, respect the rights of others and do our duty. It demands, too, that we be animated by such love as will make us feel the need of others as our own, and induce us to share our goods with others, and strive in the world to make all people as heirs to the noblest of intellectual and spiritual values. (see Pacem in Terris, No. 35)
Towards the end of his encyclical on Peace, Pope St. John XXIII says this: “Peace is the goal of life in society, (No. 490) and working for peace can never be separated from announcing the Gospel, which is in fact the “good news of peace” (Acts 10:36; cf. Eph 6:15) addressed to all men and women. (No. 493)
With that in mind, let us enter a new day, giving thanks to the God who has created all that is – striving to live in peace with God, one another, and all of God’s great creation that sustains life.
Please join us in praying this NOVENA for peace.5