That, however, got me thinking. What does it actually mean to be “people of good will”? What will people in the pews in Catholic parishes, asked to sing this “new” phrase think that it means?
Miriam Webster online gives several definitions that seem to apply to some degree:
1 a : a kindly feeling of approval and support : benevolent interest or concern…
2 a : cheerful consent b : willing effort
Urban Dictionary.com is more realistic, perhaps:
“A factor of humanity that is lacking in most people. Good will is the basic component of "good people," that is, those who are nonmalignant, those with clean motives, and those who possess a lack of cruelty and viciousness.”
So, to be people of good will in the worldly definition means merely to have a kindly feeling of approval and support, to give a cheerful consent or make a willing effort and/or to have clean motives and a lack of cruelty and viciousness? Is this our proper response to God and to God’s sending of his Son? Seems a little bit inadequate, does it not?
The translation of the song of the angels in Luke 2:14 in the New American Bible is actually “…peace on earth to those on whom his favor rests”- instead of the Mass text translation of “et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis” from the Novus Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible from which the Third Edition of the Roman Missal is derived.
If God’s favor rests on his people, if we are those privileged to be the objects of God’s love, I would hope we would have more than the dictionary-definition response! Based on the teaching of Jesus and the Church, I would define the attitude that makes up Christian “good will” as follows: joyful, open and willing reception of the Good News, evidenced in a life of loving charity and eager service to others.
What do you think? How will you help adults, youth and children understand this?