January 13, 2006


We are called to solidarity and stewardship in the New Year

Christian “solidarity means standing up for one another, the healthy for the sick, the rich for the poor, the countries of the North for those of the South, in the knowledge that we have a mutual responsibility and with the awareness that it is in giving that we receive, that we can only give that which has been given to us, which therefore never simply belongs to us” (Pope Benedict XVI).

At the beginning of each new calendar year, the Church calls our attention to the challenges we face in the year ahead as we strive to achieve peace and justice for all the peoples of the world. During his 26-year pontificate, Pope John Paul II spoke often (and urgently) of the need for peace. “Peace is more and more clearly seen as the only way to justice,” he said. “Peace is itself the work of justice.” And “public opinion is growing in consciousness of the absurdity of war as a means of resolving differences.”

New Year’s Day is traditionally considered World Peace Day—under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Benedict XVI has carried on this important tradition—making world peace the subject of his address to the people in St. Peter’s Square on the first day of the new year. As he often does, the Holy Father reminds us that there can be no peace without God. Indeed, all our attempts to achieve reconciliation and harmony among the divided peoples of the world are doomed to failure unless they are open to the grace of God and subject to his divine will. “Without God, things always go badly,” the pope says frequently.

Without God, our best efforts are futile and our yearning for peace remains unsatisfied. Without God, there is no real solidarity and no hope for human equality, no end to poverty and human suffering, and no peace among the warring nations and cultures of our divided world.

But with God all things are possible. Even an end to world hunger. Even cures for AIDS and other catastrophic illnesses. Even a just distribution of the world’s material resources. Even a “culture of life” that respects human dignity and promotes authentic family and community values. Even peace and justice for all people regardless of their race, religion, social or economic status.

What must we do to achieve true and lasting peace? Acknowledge our solidarity with all our sisters and brothers in the one family of God. Be grateful stewards of the gifts we have received from a good and gracious God. Share generously with others all the material and spiritual gifts we have received through Christ’s bounty. Accept the will of God, as Mary did, and follow Christ as faithful disciples. Be open to the work of the Holy Spirit—even as he calls us out of our comfort zones into new and unfamiliar territory. (“Put out into the deep” as the Lord challenged his weary disciples when they were unsuccessful in their efforts to catch fish in Luke 5:4 and “start afresh from Christ” as Pope John Paul II called us to do in his apostolic letter, “Novo Millenio Inuente,” “Entering the New Millennium”).

Each new year is a new beginning. A chance to try again.

As Pope Benedict XVI said in his World Peace Day message: “If peace is the aspiration of all men of good will, for the disciples of Christ this is a permanent mandate that commits everyone; it is a demanding mission that urges them to proclaim and witness ‘the Gospel of Peace,’ proclaiming that recognition of God’s complete truth is a prior and necessary condition for the consolidation of the truth of peace. May this acknowledgement grow more and more, so that each Christian community may become the ‘leaven’ of a humanity renewed in love ... With [Mary’s] maternal help, we wish to commit ourselves to quickly work for peace, following Christ, the Prince of Peace.”

— Daniel Conway

(Daniel Conway is a member of the editorial committee of the board of directors of Criterion Press Inc.)


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