Today — besides being the feast of Mary the Mother of God — is also the World Day of Prayer for Peace started by Pope Paul VI in 1967.
Peace is like love: we recognize it, but it is difficult to describe it. Love is calm, free, just and good, just like we see in the life of Mary. Love is often accompanied by good feelings, but it can exist even amid misunderstandings because love is a commitment to work for the good of the other person, and is, therefore, a commitment that goes way beyond mere feelings and can even include some tense moments.
For instance, when children misbehave and love obligates us to discipline them for their own good, even though they won't much like it at the time. But love cannot exist where there is lack of respect, justice or good will. And you can't force love.
And it's the same with peace: it exists only when everyone works for the good of all. There are always going to be differences and tense moments among countries, but peace is more than just good feelings. But peace does require mutual respect, good will, justice and, above all, a concern for the common good of both countries — and all countries. Just like love.
So, we will never have world peace so long as countries are only concerned about their own national self-interest. Just as success in marriage often requires husbands and wives to make many personal sacrifices, so also nations — and in particular the most powerful and wealthy nations (that's us!) will have to make many sacrifices if we are ever going to have world peace. Sacrifices that in the long run will produce many benefits for everyone, including us.
In our first reading taken from the book of Numbers, God teaches Aaron how to bless the people, with a blessing that ends with the words: "May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!"
In our Gospel, the shepherds go to Bethlehem to visit the Prince of Peace, whom they find lying in the manger. It is with this newborn baby that God looks upon us with maximum kindness and gives us the most complete peace imaginable, making himself man, humbling himself to take on the broken human condition, in order to redeem us from slavery to hatred, reconciling all the nations on earth in this life, and uniting heaven and earth in the life to come.
To achieve this, the newborn Prince of Peace will have to make many sacrifices, ultimately sacrificing his own life. But even so, he cannot force us to accept this salvation, any more than you can force love or peace. He offers us peace and then awaits our response.
As we begin this New Year at a time when war is raging in the Middle East and Ukraine and in countless other places, we gather on this feast of the Blessed Mother to pray for peace. For true peace, not merely the absence of war.
We ask God to open our hearts to help us to overcome our own selfishness, individually and in our families, and to overcome our selfishness as a nation, for the benefit of all, including us. Striving to reach that day when the blessing described in today's first reading finds fulfillment throughout the world: "May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!"
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Jan. 1.
Please read our Comments Policy before posting.Article comments powered by Disqus