January 23, 2015

Editorial

Christ is the way to achieve lasting peace in our hearts, in our world

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God” (Mt 5:9).

The Quakers have a saying, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” Catholic teaching supports this insight—provided we understand that it is the peace of Christ that is the way to achieve lasting peace in our hearts and in our world.

In the first volume of Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes, “Peace aims at the overcoming of boundaries and at the renewal of the Earth through the peace that comes from God. The Earth belongs to all the children of God, but especially to those who are meek and humble of heart. The rich and the powerful attempt to control the land by any means at their disposal, including warfare and genocide, but, in the end, they will be unsuccessful.”

For the 2015 World Day of Peace, Pope Francis issued a challenge to all Christians, and all people of good will, “to recognize every other person as a brother or sister with God-given dignity.” Such recognition, the Holy Father says, will lead to peace.

Pope Francis also observes that when we recognize the dignity of others, we will feel compelled to work for an end to all that exploits and enslaves them, such as human trafficking, trade in migrants and prostitutes, exploitation, slave labor and the enslavement of women and children.

These are “a fatal running sore on the flesh of Christ,” Pope Francis tells us. To address these assaults on the dignity of our sisters and brothers in all regions of the world—and here at home—we must do all that we can to assist victims and, at the same time, work for justice.

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 acceptance and forgiveness (the way of the meek, the way of Jesus Christ) is the only way to peace.

As Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin recently wrote, “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.”

The archbishop also writes that “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 forgiveness or without the willingness to sacrifice our individual or collective self-interest 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 love.”

We 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. Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that there is an essential connection between divine Sonship and the kingship of peace. 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 sons 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 as Pope Benedict reminds us, when we lose sight of God, through our blindness, selfishness and sin, “peace disintegrates and violence proliferates to a formerly unimaginable degree of cruelty. Only the man who is reconciled with God can also be reconciled and in harmony with himself, and only the man who is reconciled with God and with himself can establish peace around him and throughout the world.”

There is no way to peace. Christ is the way. May we recognize every person in the world—no matter how different from us—as our brother or sister in Christ. And may this recognition lead to peace.

—Daniel Conway

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