Each New Year brings the expectation of a better world. In light of this, I ask God, the Father of humanity, to grant us concord and peace, so that the aspirations of all for a happy and prosperous life may be achieved. These were the opening words of Pope Benedict XVI for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace on January 1, 2013.
We all desire a peaceful world. It is innate to every human person just as the love of God is written into every human heart.
The greatest challenge in opposition to a peaceful world is the lack of understanding of the true nature of the human person. Pope Benedict speaks to thiswhen he writes, “The denial of what makes up the true nature of human beings in its essential dimensions, its intrinsic capacity to know the true and the good and, ultimately, to know God himself, jeopardizes peacemaking. Without the truth about man inscribed by the Creator in the human heart, freedom and love become debased, and justice loses the ground of its exercise” [Pope Benedict XVI – Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace on January 1, 2013, 3].
But looking at the world today, one may get the sense that the reality of a peaceful world is just a wonderful utopian idea. When worldwide tensions continue to divide nations and peoples, when the gap between the rich and poor continues to widen, when life is not protected in the womb, when moral values continue on the decline and religious freedoms are taken away by government intrusion, the notion of peace seems far away.
To become authentic peacemakers, it is fundamental to keep in mind our transcendent dimension and to enter into constant dialogue with God, the Father of mercy, whereby we implore the redemption achieved for us by his only-begotten Son. In this way mankind can overcome that progressive dimming and rejection of peace which is sin in all its forms: selfishness and violence, greed and the will to power and dominion, intolerance, hatred and unjust structures .
Therefore, if we are to bring about a civilization where peace and justice flourish, it begins with each person looking within himself or herself seeking to discover our true nature as described by God and not defined by the secular culture or public opinion.
A society which does not respect human life in all its many aspects, beginning from conception, through its natural development and up to its natural end will never know peace. As Pope Benedict reflects, Life in its fullness is the height of peace. Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life . Promoting any right to abortion, euthanasia, or assisted suicide poses a threat to the fundamental right to life and will never bring about peace.
A society which promotes a redefinition of marriage will never know peace because redefining what God has intended from the beginning destroys the true nature of a just society, not to mention the harm that it brings to the indispensable role of the family in society.
A society which has to continually fight for religious freedom or fight against government intrusion into the way religious organizations or people must practice their religious faith will never know peace. Peace exists when the faith of all people is accepted and valued as part of the natural structure of society, bringing forth all that is good and valuable for the common welfare.
Our Holy Father speaks of other challenges which impact the making of a peaceful society – the financial and economic challenges, the role of labor and the right to work and the injustices towards migrants and refugees. Please take the time to read Pope Benedict’s Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace found on the diocesan website. It is a wonderful message for prayer and reflection for all of us as we begin this new year.
We have a long way to go to attain the peaceful society which the Lord desires for us. It will come about when our hearts are converted to Christ, and his attitudes and ideals become our own. A peaceful society will only come about when its members are filled with the peace of Christ which comes to us only through intimacy with him through prayer. We pray for ourselves that God will make each of us true instruments of his peace in a world which so desperately needs it. We also ask God to enlighten all leaders so that, besides caring for the proper material welfare of their peoples, they may secure for them the precious gift of peace, break down the walls which divide them, strengthen the bonds of mutual love, grow in understanding, and pardon those who have done them wrong; in this way, by his power and inspiration all the peoples of the earth will experience fraternity, and the peace for which they long will ever flourish and reign among them .
As the New Year begins, grace and peace in abundance to all of you! May Christ’s love lead you to new heights in faith and may His peace reign in your hearts now and forever.