My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
The concluding lines of the Canticle of Zechariah found in the Gospel of Luke are a fitting reminder of the true meaning of Christmas: “To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
These are the words which Zechariah uses in prophesying and guarding his son, John the Baptist, and the Master whom he would serve, Jesus Christ. The feet of a child must lead us on the path to peace. This truly is what we need this Christmas perhaps more than ever in recent years. The world as we know it is in turmoil; there is little peace and there is too much war.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, in his third World Day of Peace message and the 49th such message to the world, usually released on the first of January, this year has the theme, “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace.” How important it is that we work at peace, as peace needs to be built. Peace is the gift of the Redeemer and is something that we must work at instilling in our world today. As the message tells us, we hear indifferences often linked to various forms of individualism which cause isolation, ignorance, selfishness and, therefore, lack of interest and commitment.
How important it is that we become involved in making peace in the world. Obviously, peace begins personally, internally, interiorly, and then must be formed firm in our family circle and that peace moves out into the world. Peace, though it may be elusive, is also concrete and something that we need to experience. Peace is to be worked at. It is not something that one gains without efforts, without conversion of mind and heart, without a sense of creativity and positive engagement and discussion, as our Holy Father tells us in this year’s message.
The work of peace first includes our own understanding of the causes of injustice and ignorance which cause war and not peace. Those causes today include fundamentalism, intolerance, massacres, persecutions on account of faith and ethnicity, disregard for freedom and the destruction of the rights of entire peoples. How important it is that we see these destructive forces in the world for what they are; they are the work of evil that only can be dispelled by greater works of good, by efforts of peace building, by efforts of sacrifice and prayer.
This Christmas gives us an opportunity to welcome the Prince of Peace into our minds and hearts, however, not just in some sentimental way. Rather, with a real commitment of instilling peace in the world around us beginning with ourselves.
Christmas offers us the opportunity of putting out into the deep recesses of the human person where peace can be found in our world. The gift of the Savior is peace. It is the small feet of the child that we must follow to the path of peace, small steps that can in the long run become the giant movements that assure peace in our world. Do not let this Christmas go by without engaging in your own peacemaking efforts. Do not lose the opportunity for this Christmas to make it one of peace.