January 1, 2003
World Peace Day
Happy New Year! A few decades ago, the church named New Year's day in
honor of Mary and invited us to begin the new year praying that God would
bless us and the whole world through the intercession of Mary. We are
invited to ponder in our hearts all the great good that God is doing
in our lives and in our world, just as Mary pondered in her heart how
the shepherds came to the stable, how the angels appeared to them telling
them about the birth of the savior, how they announced "peace on earth
to those of goodwill," and how those poor shepherds went home praising
When you are poor shepherds, living on the outskirts of a brutal empire,
the birth of a savior is good news. It's also bad news for empires because
it means God sides with the poor and oppressed, not with imperial, military
power, then and now.
Mary pondered all these things in her heart, so she must have been,
among other things, a mystic and a contemplative. She teaches us to be
people of the heart, people who ponder the Gospel and the mysteries of
Christ in our hearts, people who reflect, contemplate and meditate on
the deeper things, the wisdom of God, the presence of God in our lives,
the message of the angels, and Jesus' gift of peace.
Pope John Paul has declared January 1st "World Peace Day." As you know,
each week over the past two months, he has issued strong statements against
the U.S. plans to massacre children in Iraq, to lead us to World War
III, and to risk nuclear war with North Korea. The other day he said, "There
is no alternative to peace." Each year, he gives a long statement on
January 1st. This year, he calls the worldwide church to reflect on the
40th anniversary of Pope John 23rd's encyclical "Pacem in Terris." Here
is an excerpt from the statement he issued today:
"Blessed Pope John XXIII was a man unafraid of the future. He was sustained
in his optimism by his deep trust in God and in humanity, both of which
grew out of the faith in which he had grown up. Moved by his trust in
Providence, even in what seemed like a permanent situation of war, he
did not hesitate to summon the leaders of his time to a new vision of
peace for the world. This is the legacy that he left us.
"On this World Day of Peace, January 1st, 2003, let us all resolve to
have his same outlook: to trust in the merciful and compassionate God
who calls us to brotherhood and sisterhood, and to have confidence in
the men and women of our time because, like those of every other time,
they bear the image of God in their souls. It is on this basis that we
can hope to build a world of peace on earth.
"At the beginning of a new year in our human history, this is the hope
that rises spontaneously from the depths of my heart: that in the spirit
of every individual there may be a renewed dedication to the noble mission
which Pacem in Terris proposed forty years ago to all men and women of
good will, the task of establishing new relationships in human society,
under the sway and guidance of the four pillars of peace: "truth, justice,
love, and freedom."
He concluded with a prayer: May the God who calls us from oppression
and war to freedom and cooperation for the good of all, help people everywhere
to build a world of peace on the four pillars of peace taught by Blessed
Pope John 23: truth, justice, love, freedom.
As we begin the new year, the church invites us to contemplate the coming
of Christ in our hearts and all that God is doing for us, just as Mary
did, and to welcome the angels' message to the shepherds announcing peace
on earth, just as John 23rd did.
My prayer for each of you is from our first reading, from the book of
"May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
And may the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace."
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