“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests,” (Lk. 2:14). The angels’ proclamation of the gift of peace, given in Christ, announces the fulfillment of the messianic promises cherished throughout the ages by God’s chosen people: “For to us a child is born, a son is given; and his name shall be called … Prince of Peace” (Is. 9:6).
The Christmas mystery celebrates God’s gift of peace. Peace has descended from heaven to earth. The Word has become flesh. God is with us. The order intended by God for his creation is finally realized in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God and Son of Mary. This profound communion between God and man is the source of genuine peace and reconciliation in our world.
The peace of Christ is the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence dwelling in our hearts. This deep experience of a peace that the world cannot give is the result of being reconciled to God and in right relationship with others.
That this gift of peace has not yet been fully realized on earth is a reminder that we have to continue to open our hearts and allow Christ’s peace to take root and flourish. Peace in our world begins with the willingness to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Even as the birth of Christ occurred in an out-of-the-way place near Bethlehem and was witnessed only by a few shepherds, the birth of peace in our world begins in the hidden recesses of our hearts. It is here that we welcome Christ in faith and he communicates his peace.
Where is this peace today? Certainly the challenge of peace is the urgent challenge of our times. As in the days of Jeremiah we rightly lament, “We wait for peace to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead” (Jer. 8:15). Instead of peace we have grown accustomed to living in a heightened state of alert because of the continuing threat of terrorist attacks at home and abroad. American troops are still deployed in Afghanistan as a lingering reminder of the conditions that led to the tragedy of 9/11. Instability threatens to overwhelm the entire Middle East. There are new atrocities breaking out all over the world, most recently in the Central African Republic. Senseless acts of violence have become all too common in our schools and communities. Indeed, where is peace and how will it be achieved?
The teaching of Vatican II reminds us of an important truth. “Peace is not the mere absence of war or the simple maintenance of a balance of power between forces, nor can it be imposed at the dictate of absolute power. It is called, rightly and properly, a work of justice. It is the product of order, the order implanted in human society by its divine founder, to be realized in practice as men hunger and thirst for ever more perfect justice” (GS 78).
In the Beatitudes Jesus proclaims blessed those who hunger and thirst for justice. He proclaims blessed the peacemakers (Mt. 5:6,9). The more we welcome the peace of Christ into our hearts, the more our hearts will burn for justice, the more passionate we will be for peace in our world.
It is especially through prayer that we welcome and receive the peace of Christ. In his Apostolic Letter On the Most Holy Rosary, Blessed John Paul II recommended the Rosary as an effective prayer for peace since it leads to the loving contemplation of Christ through the eyes of Mary. “Anyone who assimilates the mystery of Christ—and this is clearly the goal of the Rosary—learns the secret of peace and makes it his life’s project” (40). Focusing our eyes on Christ, meditating on his mysteries, pondering his teachings, committing ourselves to live as his disciples, cannot help but make us peacemakers in the world.
As we celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas and observe on Jan. 1 both the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God and the World Day of Prayer for Peace, I urge you to recommit yourselves to praying for peace—peace in our world, peace in our homes and communities, peace in our hearts. I recommend the prayer of the Rosary be prayed daily for this particular intention, especially among families, throughout the New Year. Our Lord promises, “My peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you” (Jn.14:27).
May the Lord give you peace!