January 8, 2016

Rejoice in the Lord

God is the merciful source of peace and justice for all

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin

We begin each new year with a fervent prayer for peace. We long for the world of tomorrow, the time when there will be no more discord among individuals, families, neighbors or nations.

Having just celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace, we hope that his coming will inspire us all to live differently. We begin each new year with the profound hope that we can set aside our jealousy, our fear, our desire for economic control and political domination, our aversion to strangers from foreign lands, and our discomfort with those who are different from us. We pray for peace, forgetting that mercy, the way of the meek, is the only way to peace.

Christians believe that true and lasting peace comes only through the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who was sent into the world by his Father to be the ultimate peacemaker. That’s why we recall each new year the Lord’s promise to David: “I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days … He shall be my son, and I will be his father” (1 Chr 22:9).

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God” (Mt 5:9). We become children of God when we are reconciled to him—through our baptism and our communion with him in and through the Church. But when we lose sight of God, through our blindness, selfishness and sin, there can be no peace. Injustice, violence and cruelty dominate the world order, and peace disintegrates—in our hearts and homes, in our neighborhoods and nations, and throughout the world.

True peace, the peace that lasts, happens when we work for justice. It is the product of the hard work of civilization, the rule of law and the right-ordering of social structures. Peace requires fairness, respect for human dignity and the refusal to take advantage of another’s weakness. As Pope Paul VI said on the World Day of Peace on Jan. 1, 1972, “If you want peace, work for justice.” And that means this work must be done both here at home and around the world.

Lasting peace—the kind that is more than a temporary ceasefire or a periodic break between hostile actions—is the effect of charity. There is no real peace without mercy or without the willingness to sacrifice our individual or collective self-interests for the sake of genuine harmony. If we want peace, we must let go of our desire for revenge, and we must be willing to let old wounds heal through the saving grace of God’s mercy.

This is one reason that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has proclaimed a Holy Year of Mercy. In the papal bull “Misericordiae Vultus” (“The Face of Mercy”), Pope Francis explains how in Jesus Christ the mercy of God has been revealed to people of every nation, language and culture. This is the great mystery we celebrated last weekend, the Epiphany of the Lord.

The pope hopes that this Year of Mercy will be a time for Catholics to contemplate just how merciful God has been to us and to understand better how we are called to be merciful to others.

Mercy, the pope wrote, is “the beating heart of the Gospel.” He went on to say, “How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God,” he wrote. “May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the kingdom of God is already present in our midst.” Nothing in the Church’s preaching or witness, the Holy Father said, should be lacking in mercy.

Peace will happen when we can share God’s love and mercy with all our sisters and brothers throughout the world. When that day comes, nations will unite in a world order that respects the fundamental human rights and authentic cultural diversity of nations and peoples. Neighbors will help and respect one another. Families will live together joyfully. And each woman and man on Earth will be calm, untroubled and at peace.

May the peace of Christ be with us always. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, and all the saints—especially our patrons St. Francis Xavier and St. Theodora Guérin—may we find happiness and joy in working for justice and in sharing with others in Jesus’ name God’s abundant mercy.

My prayer for you—and for all our brothers and sisters in central and southern Indiana—is that we will know peace in 2016. Through the experience of God’s mercy, may we share this peace with people from all nations and cultures everywhere! †

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