Christmas Day 2016 Peace
We associate Christmas with Peace, a time of good wishes, of rest from the usual toil and trouble, hopefully of reconciliation where there has been any sort of enmity.
While we have this peaceful and pleasant image on one side, we brace ourselves for the ‘negative’ side of Christmas, the violence, the discord which is with us all the time, but seems worse at Christmas.
We can be tempted to lose hope that any improvement in the state of this world is possible; to say that Christmas enables us to want peace, but not to have it.
We must not give up. It is all real, and true. It just takes a certain amount of work to translate what we see at Bethlehem to the rest of life.
It begins with contemplation. We contemplate the crib scene. This is a major point of meeting between Heaven and earth; this is the beginning of peace. Everyone needs to visit the Crib, at least in spirit, to let the peace of Christ begin its work.
His peace will come over us gradually. Do we not hear at every Mass - the peace of the Lord be with you (Pax domini sit semper vobiscum)? And ‘Agnus Dei… dona nobis pacem’?
These are prayers that the presence of Christ will take hold of our lives.
We do not lose our individuality, but discover it all the more, as we shed all that is false, and come to our true identity in Christ.
We can hear the words distractedly, without realizing their magnitude. It is quite a business to be transformed by the Peace of Christ, involving a lot of re-thinking, changing of attitudes, replacing pride with humility, selfishness with generosity, self-pity with forgiveness etc etc.
These faults and defects have accumulated over the years. It takes more than one Christmas or one ‘Peace of the Lord’ to fix it. There has to be a constant application of prayer and sacrament to get the full effect.
Christmas can at least get us started. It awakens in us a sense that we really ought to get this right.
We can envisage a much better world than the one we have, and it is not so far out of our reach as we might think.
At Christmas we express our highest ideals, and we are likely to be on our best behaviour.
From this point we can move on: we have two paths – of cynicism, with no change, or a real hope to achieve genuine holiness.
We can control our own response. We cannot stop other people fighting and massacring each other.
But we can let the Peace of Christ take root in our own lives, and this will make it more likely that others will follow.
Our combined prayer with the whole Church, including in Heaven and Purgatory, can help bring about change for the better, at least with individual conversions. If enough people change, the structures of evil will change too.
Generally the world still does not see the relevance of Christ’s coming, and all that could mean for them.
So they deny and ignore, and even supress it, much to their own cost. They are like Herod trying to protect what they have, when they would do far better to trade in for what they could have.
We, for our part, do the opposite. We welcome the Christ Child; we contemplate Him; we pray to Him, we learn from Him, we seek His influence in every part of our lives. So His Peace (and all related qualities) will be in us.