A Reflection on World Day of Peace
The transition from Advent to Christmas to the days immediately following Christmas is always tough for me. I love the messages of so many of the Advent readings and the promises of Hope and Peace that they bear. The service of Lessons and Carols, followed by Christmas Mass the next day, continue the message that Emmanuel is, indeed, God with us – the Christ, the Hope and Peace of the world. What more could we ask for?
And then, in the Catholic cycle of readings, all the hope and peace of Christmas seem shattered on Dec. 26, when the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, and on Dec. 28, when we mark the Feast of the Holy Innocents … all those infants who were slaughtered by Herod as he sought to kill Jesus, about whom the Kings had spoken. I have always hated those readings, for they seem to disrupt the peace and serenity of Christmas Day. Yet, then I have to say to myself that it is time once again to face the reality that the Peace that Christ brought to us has not been embraced by all … and that even those of us who so desire it sometimes falter in making it happen. Then those readings make sense. Perhaps their placement is perfect, for they are a wake-up call to all of us that there is still work to be done for the promise for Christmas Peace to be a reality in this world.
In his message for the 50th anniversary of the World Day of Peace, initiated by Pope Paul VI, Pope Francis invited us to consider nonviolence “a style of politics for peace.” He challenged us to let “charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life. When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promoters of nonviolent peacemaking. In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.”
If ever there was a need for us, as individuals and as nations, to let nonviolence be a style of politics for peace, it is now. We stand on the cusp of a world that is, once again, talking of building up its nuclear arms – each nation ready to prove to the other that it will not sit back and be taken over by another. Refugees by the thousands continue to pour out of war-torn countries, so many in fact, that countries are closing their borders due to the great influx. And here in our own United States, the violence toward others who disagree with us, who look different from us, or who espouse different beliefs or values, is rampant.
Pope Francis offers us a formula for making nonviolence a style of politics for peace. He challenges us to “apply the Beatitudes in the exercise of (our) respective responsibilities. It is a challenge to build up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers. It is to show mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost. To do so requires ‘the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it, and to make it a link in the chain of a new process’ (Evangelii Gaudium). … Active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is truly more powerful and more fruitful than conflict. Everything in the world is inter-connected. Certainly differences can cause frictions. But let us face them constructively and non-violently, so that ‘tensions and oppositions can achieve a diversified and life-giving unity, preserving what is valid and useful on both sides’ (Evangelii Gaudium).”
Yes, there is so much work to be done. And that work begins within each one of us. As we mark the 50th World Day of Peace on January 1, I invite you to join with the Sisters of Providence in praying the Litany of Nonviolence each day. I am convinced that with steadfast prayer, and with our personal commitment to use nonviolence as OUR style of politics for peace, each one of us, and all of us together, can help to make the Hope and Peace that we celebrated on Christmas a reality in our world!
Litany of Nonviolence
aware of our own brokenness,
we ask the gift of courage
to identify how and where we are in need of conversion
in order to live in solidarity with Earth and all creation.
Deliver us from the violence of superiority and disdain.
Grant us the desire, and the humility,
to listen with special care to those
whose experiences and attitudes are different from our own.
Deliver us from the violence of greed and privilege.
Grant us the desire, and the will, to live simply
so others may have their just share of Earth’s resources.
Deliver us from the silence
that gives consent to abuse, war and evil.
Grant us the desire, and the courage,
to risk speaking and acting for the common good.
Deliver us from the violence
of irreverence, exploitation and control.
Grant us the desire, and the strength,
to act responsibly within the cycle of creation.
God of love, mercy and justice,
acknowledging our complicity
in those attitudes, action and words which perpetuate violence,
we beg the grace of a non-violent heart.
Read “Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace,” written by Pope Francis.