My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
As we look at the world scene today, we recognize that there is much suffering and pain. We only have to look to the Middle East to recognize that in the last week, the city of Aleppo has been nearly destroyed, and its people have fled for their lives. In Egypt two weeks ago, a Coptic Orthodox Church was bombed, killing more than 25 people. The almost complete evacuation of Christians from Northern Iraq and Syria has been a terrible blow to the historical presence of Christianity, which preceded Islam by more than 600 years. In our own country, we see increased acts of anti-Semitism. We witness more violence in our streets while some fan the flame of ethnic and racial division. It is in this context that we celebrate the birth of our Savior.
But what has this Savior done? Is His work unfinished? Truly, the work of Christ, the Savior, is our work. Christians not only celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas, but they receive the mandate to be disciples and to make real what Christ has done to save us. He has shed light on the human race to understand the dignity of man because it has been touched by divinity. The God man, Jesus Christ, gives an inestimable dignity to all human life.
The Prince of Peace! Has He failed? Or has His word and message never been heeded? If we turn to the Sermon on the Mount, the greatest sermon Jesus ever preached, and the greatest religious instruction that the human race has ever received, we hear Him say, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
How does one make peace? Pope Paul VI reminded us that if we want peace we must seek justice. There can be no peace in the world if there is not justice. One’s justice, however, becomes another’s injustice. We must find a way where everyone can not only perceive, but feel that their life is justified, and that the circumstances of their life are more than just palatable. We must seek the common good of all in the world, which is never an easy task. But the world is not the final destiny. The Kingdom of God is our final destiny, the kingdom of justice and peace, the kingdom that will only be established at the end of time. In the meantime, however, it is our responsibility to work for a world that is more just, because Christ was born.
Christians celebrate Christmas as a time of peace and joy. The celebration is truly an incentive to create circumstances in the world where peace and joy can be enjoyed by all.
The celebration of Christmas is like putting out into the deep waters of human existence, searching for another shore that will always be beyond our reach. The mandate of Christmas is to imitate the life of the Savior born as a helpless infant whose destiny was to die for the salvation of all. Our participation in the work of salvation is the gift we receive at Christmas and its challenge.