Peace on earth: It’s possible if we see each other as brothers and sisters Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

Although we all seem to long for peace on earth and in our own lives, peace seems to be an elusive commodity. Is peace on earth really possible?

Some would say we may have to wait until our earthly life is over to experience real peace. However, Jesus said to his disciples, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." He has sent his apostles and all of his disciples -- including us -- to establish peace on earth.

Treating each other as sisters and brothers

But how do we achieve that peace? In his message for the World Day of Peace, observed on January 1, Pope Francis says that peace will happen if we treat each other as sisters and brothers, remembering that God is the father of all.

Pope Francis explains, "In the heart of every man and woman is the desire for a full life, including that irrepressible longing for fraternity which draws us to fellowship with others and enables us to see them not as enemies or rivals, but as brothers and sisters to be accepted and embraced."

Without that awareness of our relatedness, he insists, "it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace."

Importance of the family

Pope Francis emphasizes that this fraternity is first learned in the family, which "is the wellspring of all fraternity, and as such it is the foundation and the first pathway to peace, since, by its vocation, it is meant to spread its love to the world around it."

It is so important for families to foster love and respect for each other within the immediate family and the extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Today, however, our families are often fragmented. We don't always live close to our families, with some families split apart by geographical distance and others by divorce or other kinds of separation. There may also be family squabbles and conflicts which tear families apart.

Pope Francis notes that these problems within families have existed from the beginning of the world. He points to our first parents, Adam and Eve, and their sons, Cain and Abel. Cain’s murder of Abel "bears tragic witness to his radical rejection of their vocation to be brothers," Pope Francis observes. "Their story brings out the difficult task to which all men and women are called, to live as one, each taking care of the other."

We are our brother's keeper

In the Genesis account, God asks Cain, "Where is your brother?" Cain answers, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" Obviously God wants Cain to realize that he is indeed his brother's keeper, as we, too, are our brothers' and sisters' keepers.

Pope Francis says, "The story of Cain and Abel teaches that we have an inherent calling to fraternity, but also the tragic capacity to betray that calling. This is witnessed by our daily acts of selfishness, which are at the root of so many wars and so much injustice."

The Holy Father says we can foster a sense of fraternity by recognizing that God is the father of all people, to welcome his love and share it with others. He insists that the love of God, once welcomed, "becomes the most formidable means of transforming our lives and relationships with others, opening us to solidarity and to genuine sharing."

Pope Francis encourages us to reach beyond our families to the community at large, even to people we don’t know personally. He urges us to share our "wealth" with others and to help those affected by poverty, war, drug abuse, human trafficking, and many other affronts to human dignity. We should develop an "attitude of service," he says, to build peace on earth.

As we begin the new year, I encourage everyone to take the words of Pope Francis to heart. Let us foster greater love in our own families and reach out to serve our sisters and brothers through generosity and service in our parishes, communities, and the world at large. Then we will begin to do our part to build peace on earth.