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Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good

on Saturday, 01 January 2005. Posted in Pope John Paul II

Pope's message for the World Day of Peace

Every year, since 1967, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates on January 1st, feast of Mary, Mother of God, the World Day of Peace. Here are excerpts from this year's message, written by Pope John Paul Il on December 8, 2004:

At the beginning of the New Year, I once again address the leaders of nations and all men and women of good will, who recognize the need to build peace in the world. For the theme of this 2005 World Day of Peace I have chosen Saint Paul's words in the Letter to the Romans: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (12:21). Evil is never defeated by evil; once that road is taken, rather than defeating evil, one will instead be defeated by evil.

The great Apostle brings out a fundamental truth: peace is the outcome of a long and demanding battle which is only won when evil is defeated by good. If we consider the tragic scenario of violent fratricidal conflicts in different parts of the world, and the untold sufferings and injustices to which they have given rise, the only truly constructive choice is, as Saint Paul proposes, to flee what is evil and hold fast to what is good (cf. Rom 12:9)...

Evil always has a name and a face: the name and face of those men and women who freely choose it. Sacred Scripture teaches that at the dawn of history Adam and Eve rebelled against God, and Abel was killed by Cain, his brother (cf. Gen 34). These were the first wrong choices, which were succeeded by countless others down the centuries. Each of these choices has an intrinsic moral dimension, involving specific individual responsibilities and the fundamental relationship of each person with God, with others and with all of creation.

At its deepest level, evil is a tragic rejection of the demands of love. Moral good, on the other hand, is born of love, shows itself as love and is directed towards love. All this is particularly evident to Christians, who know that their membership in the one mystical Body of Christ sets them in a particular relationship not only with the Lord but also with their brothers and sisters. The inner logic of Christian love, which in the Gospel is the living source of moral goodness, leads even to the love of one's enemies: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink" (Rom 12:20).

 To attain the good of peace there must be a clear and conscious acknowledgment that violence is an unacceptable evil and that it never solves problems. "Violence is a lie, for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity. Violence destroys what it claims to defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings". What is needed is a great effort to form consciences and to educate the younger generation to goodness by upholding that integral and fraternal humanism which the Church proclaims and promotes. This is the foundation for a social, economic and political order respectful of the dignity, freedom and fundamental rights of each person.

Fostering peace by overcoming evil with good requires careful reflection on the common good and on its social and political implications. When the common good is promoted at every level, peace is promoted. (…)

 The good of peace and the use of the world's goods

Since the good of peace is closely linked to the development of all peoples, the ethical requirements for the use of the earth's goods must always be taken into account. The Second Vatican Council rightly recalled that "God intended the earth and all it contains for the use of everyone and of all peoples; so that the good things of creation should be available equally to all, with justice as guide and charity in attendance". (Gaudium et Spes, 69.) (...)

The good of peace should be seen today as closely related to the new goods derived from progress in science and technology. These too, in application of the principle of the universal destination of the earth's goods, need to be put at the service of humanity's basic needs. Appropriate initiatives on the international level can give full practical implementation to the principle of the universal destination of goods by guaranteeing to all – individuals and nations – the basic conditions for sharing in development. This becomes possible once the barriers and monopolies that marginalize many peoples are removed. (...)

The principle of the universal destination of goods can also make possible a more effective approach to the challenge of poverty, particularly when we consider the extreme poverty in which millions of people are still living. The international community, at the beginning of the new millennium, set the priority of halving their number by the year 2015. The Church supports and encourages this commitment and invites all who believe in Christ to show, practically and in every sector, a preferential love for the poor.

The tragedy of poverty remains closely linked to the issue of the foreign debt of poor countries. Despite significant progress in this area, the problem has not yet been adequately resolved. (...) As Pope Paul VI stated and as I myself have reaffirmed, the only really effective means of enabling States to deal with the grave problem of poverty is to provide them with the necessary resources through foreign financial aid - public and private – granted under reasonable conditions, within the framework of international commercial relations regulated with fairness. (…)

 With God's help, evil can be defeated

Based on the certainty that evil will not prevail, Christians nourish an invincible hope which sustains their efforts to promote justice and peace. Despite the personal and social sins which mark all human activity, hope constantly gives new impulse to the commitment to justice and peace, as well as firm confidence in the possibility of building a better world.

Although the "mystery of iniquity" (2 Th 2:7) is present and active in the world, we must not forget that redeemed humanity is capable of resisting it. Each believer, created in the image of God and redeemed by Christ, "who in a certain way has united himself to each human being", can cooperate in the triumph of good. The work of "the Spirit of the Lord fills the earth" (cf. Wis 1:7). Christians, especially the lay faithful, "should not, then, hide their hope in the depth of their hearts, but rather express it through the structures of their secular lives in continual conversion and in wrestling against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of iniquity."(Eph 6:12)".

No man or woman of good will can renounce the struggle to overcome evil with good. This fight can be fought effectively only with the weapons of love. When good overcomes evil, love prevails and where love prevails, there peace prevails. This is the teaching of the Gospel, restated by the Second Vatican Council; "the fundamental law of human perfection, and consequently of the transformation of the world, is the new commandment of love". (...)

During this year dedicated to the Eucharist, may the sons and daughters of the Church find in the supreme sacrament of love the wellspring of all communion: communion with Jesus the Redeemer and, in him, with every human being. By Christ's death and resurrection, made sacramentally present in each Eucharistic celebration, we are saved from evil and enabled to do good. (...)

John Paul II

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