Peace To People of Good Will?

Sometimes I guess I am a bit slow on the uptake. The Catholic Church been using the new translation of the Mass since Advent of 2011 and there is one change I didn’t really notice until Mass yesterday morning. (Maybe everyone else talked about this at the time, and I just missed it.)

In the setting of the Gloria we sang at my daughter’s Church in Appleton, the refrain went:

Glory to God, glory to God, glory to God in the highest.
And on earth, peace on earth, peace to people of good will.

It took until the second time through for me to realize the line was bothering me. It was the last phrase that twisted my gut: peace to people of good will.

When we got home later in the day, I checked and found that the song words are consistent with the new translation of the Mass, which reads “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” In the old translation we prayed, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.”

Apparently I’ve been praying the new words for over two years without hearing the difference. But the sung version of it highlighted the difference in a way I could not ignore.

Why in the world would be only pray for peace to people of good will? Don’t people lacking in good will need our prayer for peace as much as – or even more so – than those of good will? Jesus, after all, said “those who are health do not need a physician, but the sick do…that he came to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

It is hard to imagine a good justification for limiting those for whom we pray in this prayer. I understand the line is meant to call to mind Luke’s account of the proclamation of the angels at the birth of Jesus. But that seems scant justification. In various translations of the Bible, that line reads “peace, good will toward men,” “peace to those oh whom his favor rests.” Neither of those is quite so limiting and, even if it were, Luke’s birth story is not intended as a historically accurate account.

If Jesus came to call not the righteous, but the sinners, it seems to me we give greater glory to God by praying for peace for all people, not just those of good will.


8 thoughts on “Peace To People of Good Will?

  1. Amen. And Pope Francis exhorts his priests to go out of the churches to meet the people on the streets. The people of good will make the inside too comfortable – the challenges and the victories of renewal are outside.

  2. Thank you for noticing Susan!
    This sinner agrees with you.
    And I am still working out my responsibility as one born, raised, and educated in this messy organization.
    I still envision a Church that includes everone, even sinners..

  3. Amen, sister! You put words around something that has been bothering me as well (nibbling at the edges of my consciousness). Add to that the change in the Eucharistic prayer from “for all” to “for many” and I’m beginning to feel a narrowness that reminds me of the constriction of an asthma attack.

  4. I’m with you Susan. Yours is only one example of egregiously bad prose, not to mention prayer. We have gutted the language and I regularly find myself distracted at Mass wondering, “What, for God’s sake, does that mean?”

  5. Just a thought, but what if a lack of peace and the resulting realization of that lack of peace in people who did not bear good will towards their fellow “man” or God led them to seek Him and the peace that only He can give?

    • That is not the kind of peace we are praying for in that prayer, Dan. We are not praying for a “wordly” sense of peace (for lack of a better way of phrasing it). The peace of Christ can sometimes feel anything but peaceful in that sense. We ought to be wishing Christ’s peace on everyone (IMHO).

  6. Yes, I agree. I doubt that there were any lay people on the committee that revised the English translation. There are also other examples. One that makes me cringe is the Creed language…Christ died “for us men and our salvation.” Besides being bad theology, it may even be heretical!

    Then there is “Lord God of Hosts”. This goes back to the Old Testament naming of God as head of the military/army. Hosts was a term for the military. Most people I have asked think this is about Eucharist..not so! Then there is the coming down from heaven like the dew fall which I think is a reference to manna in the desert in the OT. Everyone knows that dew doesn’t “fall”.but is condensation from the ground.

    It can be hard to stay focused on what is important during the Mass with all the linguistic inaccuracies resulting from a church hierarchy decision to return to a closer translation of the Latin. Even Jesus didn’t speak Latin! Yes, it is hard at times to pray wholeheartedly when language trips you up!

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