Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 22, 2002
Did Jesus bring peace on earth?
By SR. LOUISE ZDUNICH, NDC
Did Jesus really bring peace on earth when peoples and nations are always fighting?
The angels bring the message to shepherds of "Peace on earth."
Jesus speaks to his disciples of bringing peace which the world cannot give. The Roman Martyrology recounts the entry of Jesus into the world "when the whole world was at peace."
Exactly what is the peace of which these texts speak? When Jesus was born, there were all kinds of wars going on in various parts of the world and wars have continued ever since. It seems that the whole world is never at peace. These words about peace don't say there was a lasting peace or when that peace was to come. But perhaps there can be a moment of peace and that moment could have occurred at the moment of Jesus' birth.
So, yes, Jesus brought peace to each one of us - and the world - but we have to use our freedom and intelligence to create that peace.
What is peace? The Scriptures provide a rich view of peace. In the Old Testament, peace is a gift from God which comes from God's saving activity and is evident in the restoration of right order within all creation.
This right relationship is expressed in the covenant in which God promises to be present to the people and lead them to freedom while the people promise to be faithful to God. Peace is a special characteristic of the covenant and has justice and fidelity to God as its foundation.
But there is also in Scripture reference to eschatological peace, a final salvation and era of peace when all will be made whole and this forms the messianic hope of the people.
As Christians, we believe that Jesus fulfilled this messianic hope. He reconciled all things to God and made peace by his death on the cross. Jesus proclaimed God's reign which had already begun by his presence.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus told us who will be part of the reign of God: the poor, the gentle, mourners, the hungry and thirsty, the merciful, the persecuted, the peacemakers. Basically, the characteristics of God's reign will be justice, love and forgiveness.
The Gospel of John depicts the post-resurrection gift of peace with which Jesus greets the disciples as a peace which the world cannot give (14:27). It is the fullness of salvation, a reconciliation of the world with God, the restoration of unity and harmony of all of creation.
Catholic social teaching situates its treatment of peace in the discrepancy that exists between the fullness of God's reign and its concrete expression marred by human sinfulness where the fullness or permanence of peace is impossible. True peace flourishes in a social order founded on truth, built on justice, enlivened by love and refined in freedom (John XXIII, Peace on Earth #37).
Peace can only be achieved on a social scale if there is peace in the individual heart. Peace for a person who believes in God means a right relationship with God. Only when we allow Jesus to enter our lives and renew his incarnation in our hearts will we experience that peace which Jesus promised.
We need to recognize and appreciate so that we can fully receive God's gift of faith and grace.
Mary shows us to be willing to let God speak, even if it seems to be a silent communication, to wait and let God take the initiative. But when God speaks, Mary is ready to act. The oft-forgotten Joseph understood little of what was going on but accepted the angel's message in faith.
The shepherds watched their sheep and were attuned to nature. They had their eyes, ears and hearts open and so were ready to receive the gift the angels brought them. The wise men searched the skies for a sign. They were watchful, not knowing what they were about to see. Neither the shepherds nor wise men knew where they were being led but they did not hesitate to go and see.
The moment of peace can come for us when we watch for God and cooperate with what God asks of us. Instead of cluttering up our minds, let us be still in God's presence, let us empty ourselves of all that hinders us from seeing the star and hearing the angels.
Let us put our world at peace so that we may know God is present in our lives. All it takes is a moment to allow Christ to enter our hearts. Only then can God come into our everyday lives and with God comes peace.