Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to men of good will. — Luke 2:14
On that most glorious of all nights, the night of Our Lord’s Nativity, true peace came to the world. The peace and harmony the world knew at the beginning of creation was restored with the coming of Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah – for the Lord came in power to bring peace to His people and give them eternal life (cf. Psalm 29:11).
The presence of the Lord is the source of our calm. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” Jesus said to His disciples after the resurrection. He added: “not as the world gives do I give it to you” (John 14:27). The peace of which Jesus speaks transcends an earthly peace, which is transitory.
Jesus, the Prince of Peace, from the moment of His Nativity, sowed authentic peace and joy in the hearts and minds of all who welcomed Him. He came to reconcile all to the Father through the transforming love of His cross. His selfless gift destroyed the strangling grip of death forever, killed hatred, and enkindled true charity for one’s neighbor. He gave us a new commandment, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
A distinguishing mark of a Christian is one’s openness to peace and a transparent desire to reflect this peace, as a sign of Jesus’ presence among us, to everyone – enemy or friend. “Live as children of light”, says St. Paul “for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth” (Eph 5:8). Those who possess this peace of God joyfully pass it on to others, without exception. In gratitude for the gift of life bestowed to us by our Creator and restored by Christ, we cherish life and the life of every brother and sister.
Peace Demands Every Life Be Protected and Valued
Genuine peace among peoples, Pope St. John Paul II emphatically proclaimed, is unobtainable where life is devalued and the vulnerable marginalized: “A society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized. Only respect for life can be the foundation and guarantee of the most precious and essential goods of society, such as democracy and peace.” (Evangelium Vitae, ¶101)
We can never be content with a substitute for peace which is built upon a destructive illusion. There are two kinds of peace: that which is given by Jesus as gift and the one created by men. The one created by men is often imposed and tenuous; whereas, the other is born in the heart and cultivates harmony, truth, justice, and charity among people of good will, and is stable. The proclamation of the Gospel of Life is not for Christians alone or for a chosen few. The defense and promotion of Life is everyone’s charge; after all, we are all part of the human family, regardless of ethnicity or creed. Moreover, human rights are not a privilege conferred by the State or any power. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his or her humanity and do not depend or are contingent upon the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent.
As long as life – from the moment of conception to natural death – is threatened, there can be no true peace. We cannot expect to live in peace as a society and as a world if we accept the destruction of innocent life, especially of the vulnerable and our littlest brothers and sisters in the womb. We cannot obtain peace when our sisters and mothers feel pressured to sacrifice their unborn children because of neglect, despair, inconvenience, or uncertainty. There can be no peace when children, innocent and utterly defenseless, are at the mercy of those who deny their humanity. There can be no peace when there remains abject poverty and religious persecution. There can be no peace when our elderly, sick, disabled, and dying are made to feel that they are a burden upon families and society because there is no longer a so-called quality of life. Peace remains unachievable when governments, through policies and philosophies, dehumanize the human person and relegate life to mere secular ideologies.
Let There Be Peace on Earth
You may remember singing or hearing the song, “Let There be Peace on Earth.” In its repeating antiphon, we pray not only for the gift of peace in the world but that it would begin in me – in us. Every time I hear this song, it forces me to ask, “What am I doing? Do I live in the peace of God? How do I inaugurate peace in this world?” Peace, after all, begins in my own disposition and actions toward God and neighbor.
And who is my neighbor? (Luke 10:29) asked the young lawyer, trying to justify himself before Jesus. He was forced to admit, after hearing the parable of the Good Samaritan, that the neighbor in the parable was the Samaritan, “who showed mercy” to the injured man, thereby acting in accord with God’s commandments. Jesus’ response, “Go and do likewise.”
Jesus left no room for doubt in His reply. The command was clear. We are called to give unconditional love to everyone, without exception. It means stepping out of our comfort zones, and realizing our accountability and obligation toward each other, especially those who cannot defend themselves.
Jesus’ disciples must not be content with merely usual standards of conduct. “For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?” (Matthew 5:46)
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me…. The peace that was meant to be with God as our Father, brothers and sisters all are we.”
There is a violent war being waged against the dignity of life, especially among our unborn brothers and sisters, that demands an answer. These innocents have done no harm or committed any crime, yet they are sacrificed in the tens of thousands daily. Secularists, who fail to acknowledge the inalienable dignity of every child, born and unborn, believe some babies come to this world with less than perfect credentials – losing their right to life. These are children conceived through rape or incest, or unplanned, or with physical anomalies, or who pose a financial challenge to a family. Yet, no matter the conditions surrounding their conception, their dignity and right to life, which emanates from the dignity of the human being, is immutable.
Want Peace? Then…
The Church during Christmas echoes and receives comfort in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “A people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone” (Isaiah 9:1). Christmas is a time to renew our appreciation for the value of human life – life so precious to God that He assumed human nature to redeem it. His Incarnation is a resounding affirmation of the goodness and value of each human life – from the moment of conception until natural death. Each human life, created in the image and likeness of God, deserves reverence.
Peace is restored in Christ; all life has been transformed. So, let this be the moment now we open our eyes and hearts to God made man to see, receive, and offer the love that makes all life precious.
Let it begin in me!