Christ Child shows way to peace Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017 -- 12:00 AM

The World Day of Peace takes place during the Christmas season on January 1 on the feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

Inspired by St. John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), it was introduced in 1967 by Pope Blessed Paul VI and first observed on January 1, 1968.

The Prince of Peace

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Jesus redeemed us from sin, which causes war and other violence, and taught us how to live peacefully. After his Ascension, he sent the Holy Spirit to help us live a peaceful, Christ-like life.

Unfortunately since Jesus, many wars have occurred. In the 20th century, World War I was followed by World War II, which was much worse. According to the New Orleans National World War II Museum, worldwide there were 60 million civilian and military casualties in World War II.

Since 1945, there have been numerous wars, acts of violence, and terrorism worldwide; but there have also been efforts to wage peace, not war.

Efforts of a Japanese child

A Japanese child named Sadako Sasaki bravely waged peace from her sick bed. During Hiroshima’s bombing, she saw her mother, father, and family destroyed before her eyes. She herself suffered severe radiation burns. She knew she would die soon.

Instead of bemoaning her tragedy, she said, “This must never happen again. People cannot be this cruel to one another. Each day I will make a white paper crane, send it to someone, and ask them to be disciples of peace.” She did that every day for 683 days before she died.

After she died, her friends decided to continue what Sadako started and work for peace by making and sending white cranes throughout the world. Sadako’s friends and schoolmates helped raise funds for a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane in Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park. At the foot of the statue is a plaque that reads: “This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace on Earth.”

Jesus’ farewell gift

Peace was Jesus’ farewell gift to us. As his followers, we are called to continue his ministry by helping to bring about his kingdom of justice, love, and peace.

Jesus taught us, his followers, to respond to violence by turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, and forgiving our enemies.

In Matthew 26:52, Jesus said to one of his followers, “Put back your sword in its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

To achieve peace, we must disarm our hearts of violence. Doing so frees us to treat human persons in more peaceful, Christ-like ways.

Pope’s teachings

St. John XXIII issued the encyclical Pacem in Terris during the Cold War, two years after the Berlin Wall was built, and a few months after the Cuban missile crisis. It was directed not only to Catholics, but also to people of good will.

In the encyclical, St. John XXIII teaches that conflicts should not be resolved by recourse to arms, but rather by negotiation. He emphasized that respect for human rights is essential to achieving peace.

To help achieve peace, we must see the relationship between the billions poured into the arms race and deprivation of the needy worldwide. We must promote social justice and urge our elected representatives to support just domestic and foreign policies.

As we honor Mary on January 1, let’s beg God to help us continue Jesus’ work for peace. Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit lifts our hearts with hope and helps us make this New Year a more peaceful year in our home, workplace, school, country, and world. Let’s work together for a World Year of Peace!

Fr. Donald Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.