Peace to People of Ill Will?

Recently on The Patrick Madrid Show, Patrick read an email question from listener Nancy about a particular phrase in the Gloria: 

Hi Patrick. At Mass during the Gloria, we say “Peace to people of goodwill.” I always wondered if this means that we don’t need to give peace to people without goodwill.

When I was going through an awful time at work where a couple of relentlessly mean people harassed me, I wondered if that applied. The situation eventually lifted, as a new opportunity came up, but at the time I really felt attacked and had a difficult time praying for my attackers.

For context, that phrase in the Gloria comes from the story of the Birth of Our Lord when the angels approached and spoke to the shepherds of Bethlehem. This is an angelic prayer, which should convey the level of truth and sincerity behind its words. However, based on the way it is phrased, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the prayer is solely encouraging us to bring peace to good people.

Rather, Patrick sees this prayer as descriptive, as well as prescriptive. The purely prescriptive interpretation says that you should only give peace to people of goodwill. “If you exhibit goodwill to me, I will do the same.” Patrick says there’s more to it than that.

“This is a statement not only of how it should be but of how it actually is,” explained Patrick. “In other words, if you have goodwill toward God, you have peace. And if you want peace, then have goodwill.” It’s both.

The angels are describing that honorable people who are obedient to God are at peace. To those shepherds, they should have nothing to fear. Nothing bad will befall them if they do not harbor hatred or violence against God, which the angels know they don’t.

As for Nancy’s question, Patrick said this:

“If you’re saying to yourself, ‘Do I have to express goodwill toward those people who don’t have goodwill? Should I wish peace upon them? Should I wish good upon them?’ I think the answer is yes because Jesus said to pray for your enemies. ‘Pray for those who persecute you.’” (Matthew 5:44)

From a selfless perspective, praying for someone will benefit them immensely. Your aggressor may be in some disturbed or painful state if they’re behaving in such a hostile manner. That type of conduct often originates from suffering that the aggressor is undergoing. Prayer will only serve to alleviate their pain.

And from a selfish perspective, praying that your aggressor finds peace will only benefit you. They may come to their senses, realize their mistakes, and apologize or stop their persecution. You don’t have to try to befriend your enemies or show any type of special treatment, although killing them with kindness may work in certain situations. But we are charged with living out Christian charity by showing kindness at least through prayer and forgiveness.

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John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.