"We need peace in our hearts and peace among us."
Tomorrow is the fourth Sunday of Advent, the last Sunday of preparation for Christmas, the anniversary of Christ's birth. On this day the fourth and last candle of the Advent Wreath is lighted to usher in the coming of Christmas. On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World. It is a day of rejoicing for on this day the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us to show to all mankind that we do not live by ourselves alone to chart our own eternal destiny but that there is a loving God who guides us through the Holy Spirit and leads us to his eternal kingdom of happiness and bliss.
The Gospel for this Sunday is taken from the Gospel of Matthew which recounts the narrative of the Incarnation as seen from the perspective of Joseph, the husband of Mary. The Gospel brings the message that through the instrumentality of Mary and her most chaste spouse St. Joseph, Christ was brought into the world to bring peace, reconciliation and hope to mankind.
On the role of Mary and Joseph, Francis explained during the World Day of Peace, which is celebrated on Jan. 1, 2020, with the theme: “Peace as a Journey of Hope: Dialogue, Reconciliation and Ecological Conversion.” He reflected thus: Now that we are about to receive the Saviour, Emmanuel, it also pays to remember the great role of Mary and Joseph played in the whole scheme of the divine plan. For the salvation of men, she gave birth to God who is like us in all respects but sin.
On the same occasion, Francis identified the different dimensions of peace and how to achieve this ever elusive goal. Thus, Francis said: Peace is a great and precious value, the object of our hope and the aspiration of the entire human family. As a human attitude, our hope for peace is marked by an existential tension that makes it possible for the present, with all its difficulties, to be “lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.”
On peace, a journey of listening based on memory, solidarity and fraternity, Francis said that setting out on a journey of peace is a challenge made all the more complex because the interests at stake in relationships between people, communities and nations, are numerous and conflicting. We must first appeal to people’s moral conscience and to personal and political will. Peace emerges from the depths of the human heart and political will must always be renewed, so that new ways can be found to reconcile and unite individuals and communities. X x x The world does not need empty words but convinced witnesses, peacemakers who are open to a dialogue that rejects exclusion or manipulation. Peace “must be built up continually”; it is a journey made together in constant pursuit of the common good, truthfulness and respect for law. Listening to one another can lead to mutual understanding and esteem, and even to seeing in an enemy the face of a brother or sister. X x x The peace process thus requires enduring commitment. It is a patient effort to seek truth and justice, to honor the memory of victims and to open the way, step by step, to a shared hope stronger than the desire for vengeance. In a state based on law, democracy can be an important paradigm of this process, provided it is grounded in justice and a commitment to protect the rights of every person, especially the weak and marginalized, in a constant search for truth.
For Francis, peace is also a journey of reconciliation in fraternal communion. According to him, what is true of peace in a social context is also true in the areas of politics and the economy, since peace permeates every dimension of life in common. There can be no true peace unless we show ourselves capable of developing a more just economic system.
All this gives us deeper motivation and a new way to dwell in our common home, to accept our differences, to respect and celebrate the life that we have received and share, and to seek living conditions and models of society that favor the continued flourishing of life and the development of the common good of the entire human family. For Christians, it requires that “the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them,” Francis added.
According to the Pope, the journey of reconciliation calls for patience and trust. Peace will not be obtained unless it is hoped for. For the followers of Christ, this journey is likewise sustained by the sacrament of Reconciliation, given by the Lord for the remission of sins of the baptized. This sacrament of the Church, which renews individuals and communities, bids us keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, who reconciled “all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col 1:20). It requires us to set aside every act of violence in thought, word and deed, whether against our neighbors or against God’s creation.
Whether it is dealing with climate change in the world, the political turmoil in the United States due to the impeachment of President Donald Trump, or the imperfections in our justice system as it resolved the Ampatuan massacre, it is peace in our hearts and peace among us that is needed.
This Christmas, we not only express our eternal gratitude to Christ, the fullest expression of God’s love for us, and the bringer of peace and hope to mankind but also to Mary and Joseph who show us what perfect obedience is and how to be willing instruments of God’s salvific plan for us.
Facebook: Dean Tony La Vina