The motto for the Franciscans is, “Pax et Bonum,” which is roughly translated, “Peace and Goodness.” Behind this simple motto lies the rich and deep treasure of simplicity, but also of radical trust and faith that is grounded in divine love and service for the good of others. We are reminded that our peace comes from God, and once we have recognized and received that peace, we are called to lovingly share it by willing the good of those who are around us.
The first step in finding peace is to first recognize who we are and who gives us peace! We hear much about the poor in Sacred Scriptures, but we tend to often only equate them to being materialistically without anything. Even though that is the literal meaning of the term, “anawim,” the poor begin to take a deeper theological understanding throughout salvation history. They are faithfully understood as those who have nothing else to depend on but God Himself. In this theocentric way, we are all invited to become the poor spiritually, living our lives with total dependency on the Almighty.
In life, we have seen people who are materialistically poor but very full of themselves while there are people who have much but very humble and trusting in God. Our personal disposition, therefore, is very important in the faith journey. We have to desire to let go of our ego, especially its desire to be in control and its full load of pride, to truly be instruments of divine peace through personal, self-giving service of our brethren. It is very easy to be dependent on wealth and its enticement or be stuck in resentment for the things we do not have and think that we deserve; however, when we know who we are and where our blessings come from, we are able to be at peace with being good stewards of God‘s gifts. When we are able to know that what we have is not to be used only for our own goods and benefits, but to be in turn used for the greater goods of all, we can bless others with what we have out of love.
My paternal grandmother, when we were at the airport before her departure to the United States to be united with my paternal family, told me something that I still remember today. Perhaps this is important to me because it was the last thing she told me, and that was the last time I saw her before she passed away months later. I still remember her patting and feeling my face one last time (since she was blind) and told me: “Child, always remember who you are and where you come from — the little things that you have — because when you are poor, you will always depend on God and others!” I believe my grandmother was not just talking about materialistic poverty, but the spiritual poverty that we are to have as if everything is dependent on God and His blessings in and through those who are in our lives. In that one small piece of advice, she shared with me her essential moral foundation, disposition, and outlook of life — and for that, I am forever grateful and hold dear to this incalculable treasure.
When we recognize our nothingness or poverty in God, we are able to depend on Him as well as others. When we think of ourselves higher than others, we demand and expect everything to go our way. Yet, none of us were created to be alone or to be put on a higher pedestal than others. We are all instrumental to God‘s will for the greater good of society and the evangelical mission of the Church so that the Good News is being preached and all are being cared for with dignity, value, and love. If we really think about it, there can only be one true master of our hearts. If it is not God, it will end up being our ego, something, or someone else! Even though we have our fair share of struggles in loving Him, we should never give up! If we give up or lose focus too easily, lesser things will begin to creep in to fill our hearts. Therefore, it is important to do regular spiritual checkups and cleansings to identify the sources of distraction and reorganize our priorities in alignment with the greatest good, which God and His will for us. Only when we are able to seek and desire what is good from Him can we learn to rest in His everlasting peace.
The first letter of St. Paul to his close collaborator, St. Timothy, is a great letter to read! In particular, chapter 2, verses 1 to 8, are beautiful because they remind us that we are called to pray and live our lives so that everyone comes to know God and be saved. Our way of life should be in testimony and witness of the work of grace, how much He loves us, and how we desire to share this life-giving love to others. In similar words, St. Francis of Assisi reminds us, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”
St. Paul exhorts us to pray without anger or argument, to pray as if everything is dependent on the Lord and for the greater good of all. Too often times, we come to God frustrated, dissatisfied or angry, either at Him or others. We, then, become angry at Him and others when we pray! These things conditioned us with resentment and frustrations, demands or expectations, but not a pure, humble, and genuine heart of loving trust in His will for us. On the contrary, we are called to pray and live according to the truth revealed to us by Sacred Scriptures, the teachings of the Church, and in faith, trusting that He desires our ultimate good and salvation.
How can we bring people to God if we are always dissatisfied, angry, or in an argument? In the end, we will bring people to Him, not just with empty words or by winning arguments, but with genuine supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving with true devotion and dignity as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, disciples of Christ Jesus, and instruments of the Holy Spirit at work in the world. We offer our daily sacrifices and offerings in unity to His loving will for our world at large, those who know Him, those who are lost, and those who are trying to seek Him with a sincere heart.
We bring people to the Lord not with politics or with the vocalization of our self-centered will to oppress others in conversation but in quiet supplication and trust, letting our lives speak and be the testimony of truth at the proper time, each appropriate to his or her own state of life and vocation. We live to praise God and pray for others in the present moment as we are able as and as we are, not simply in the humanistic should have’s, could have’s, or would have’s.
When we come to prayer, the saints remind us to trust in God and to expand our horizons to understand what He has already given to us out of His love. If we think that our prayers are not being answered, spend some time to check on how we pray and our disposition as we bring ourselves into prayer:
- How do I come to prayer? Do I come to Him often and humbly, trusting and abandoning myself, able to trust Him with my petitions and thank Him with my everything?
- Am I trusting in God enough to grow, be content, and tranquil/at peace with where He has placed me?
- Do I have enough time in my life and space in my heart for God to be the center and most important love?
- If not, what are the expectations or demands I put on God or the things that take my focus from Him at this moment? Who is my Master, God, my ego, or something or someone else?
We all desire peace, but perhaps we have looked at the wrong places. We all want to do the right things, but we oftentimes allowed lesser priorities or goods to deter us from the highest good. Love begins with our very own love with Him! When we know how much joy we have in Him who loves us, we can be at peace with what we have and be content with what we do not have. When we are filled with His love, we are able to give without counting the costs or get worried about what is in it for us alone! Whatever we do, may we do all things in genuine supplication, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving with true devotion and dignity so our words and actions serve as pure, humble, and genuine testimonies of God‘s love for humanity so that the peace of the Lord and His goodness is enlivened and shared among us all.
Peace be with you.