I thought that we could learn a little more about JPIC in our Order by reflecting upon the three elements of its title. As framework for this discussion, we should understand what the NAFRA JPIC Mission Statement is:
The mission of JPIC is to assist the Professed Secular Franciscans as they reflect on their relationship with God as manifested in the fruits of conversion in their lives. This [mission is engaged] with special regard to the daily choices [they make] in the areas of justice, peace-making and respect for all created things and people; as brothers and sisters of penance, bringing life to the Gospel and the Gospel to Life (https://sites.google.com/site/jpic4ofs/about).
Our Rule reminds us:
Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon. Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance, they should strive to bring joy and hope to others. (Article 19)
Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith. (Article 15)
First, we reflect on Justice.
The secular world has its definition of justice:
The maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments--meting out justice--social justice (Merriam-Webster).
Generally, this means that someone who has committed a crime is tried and convicted or acquitted. Even the concept of “social justice” in this framework leaves winners and losers, the concept being that “you may not merit” a reward because of who or what you are.
The Church has a different view on “justice.” Here is what Pope Francis said on May 12, 2015:
“We are all equal – all of us – but this truth is not recognized, this equality is not recognized, and for this reason some people are, we can say, happier than others. But this is not a right! We all have the same rights. When we do not see this, society is unjust. It does not follow the rule of justice, and where there is no justice, there cannot be peace. I would like to repeat this with you: where there is no justice, there is no peace!”
-- Audience with children of the Peace Factory
The ultimate justice, in God’s view, is the salvation of people—returning all people to the fold, as it were, where God’s Grace and Love will have their complete and full effect—where we, everyone in the whole world, return to the original state of grace found in the Garden of Eden.
The salvation offered in its fullness to men in Jesus Christ by God the Father's initiative, and brought about and transmitted by the work of the Holy Spirit, is salvation for all people and of the whole person: it is universal and integral salvation. It concerns the human person in all his dimensions: personal and social, spiritual and corporeal, historical and transcendent.
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Part 1, Chapter 1, III.b.
Even though this ultimate condition will be realized at the end of time, we have an obligation to work toward its fulfillment in our lives today. So, in a parlance known well in this country, not only are “all [people] created equal,” but all people should be treated equally as well. When we Franciscans talk about justice, we incorporate the understanding that God loves us so completely that he wants us only to return to him. Our response to this great love is
· to seek justice in our interactions with all others;
· to treat them as we wish to be treated;
· to look for ways to serve them and make their lives better;
· to follow so closely in Francis’ footsteps that we mirror Christ, just like he did.
How do we do this?
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.
1 John 4: 7-12
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God* whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1 John 4: 19-21
When we reflect upon the words of St. Paul about charity (love), we realize the immensity of our obligation (1 Corinthians 13: 4-6). For treating all people with patience, kindness, without jealousy, without being pompous & inflated, not seeking our own interests, nor being quick tempered, nor brooding over injury, nor rejoicing over wrongdoing, but rejoicing with the truth becomes a major challenge for us. Hearkening back to the Rule, Article 15, we are not just to do these things but must “be in the forefront” of doing them. In other words, we take the lead in promoting these qualities—we become the models--the examples--a people so imbued with these qualities that our quiet lives of service display a character quite opposed to the ways of this world and show to all peoples Jesus actively living and working today.
When taken from the larger view, this call appears to be such a gargantuan task that it must be impossible to achieve. But we Franciscans know that the way to eat an elephant is to take one small bite at a time. So, our approach to this challenge is to look at our own lives and determine each day how we can live and promote justice in our own sphere. We ask ourselves questions like, “How do I treat all people I meet today with patience?” (Yes, even the guy who pulls out in front of me causing me to jam on my brakes—and then turns at the next corner without a turn signal—causing me to jam on my brakes again.!); or, “How do I treat all people I meet today with kindness?” (Yes, even the lady with three unruly kids in the grocery store aisle!) Well, you get the idea.
St. Paul’s list is an excellent measuring stick for our daily reconciliation. When we approach our daily lives like this,
· we enable others to see what the Franciscan charism is all about;
· we show them the justice of the church and how it is so much different that the justice of society;
· we exemplify the good life of a Franciscan and preach with an example that speaks so loudly that no one can hear what we are saying.
Then, in our Fraternities, we join with like-minded Franciscans and branch out to the greater community performing works of service and charity to all of those in need, whether physical, social, community, or spiritual. To make an even greater impact, our Fraternities join with others in the Region. Like the Franciscans of the Prairie Region Mission Statement says, “…we intend to spread, like the prairie fire of old, cleansing the earth and nourishing the land with His Word.” Then, all the Regions and National Fraternities unite in service to increase the witness to our country and to the world.
When we follow St. Paul’s ideas at the personal level, we transform our corner of the world into a place where all people are valued and cared for! When we profess to live this Franciscan life, we accept our Rule in its entirety so that we live out this small phrase: "Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives.” As we approach each day of our lives with this challenge foremost in our minds, we do make a difference and change the world.