To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given… and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God… Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6).
The words of Isaiah prophesy the coming of the Savior into the world, a great promise fulfilled when the Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem. At Christmas, we celebrate the great mystery of the Incarnation. Like the shepherds and the magi, we kneel in adoration before the Child “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).
The promised Messiah is identified by Isaiah as the Prince of Peace. This title has particular meaning for us this year. Our nation has been wracked again by senseless violence with the terrible slaughter of innocent children and adults last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Our hearts go out to the parents and families of these innocent victims. Let us remember them in our prayers as we celebrate the birth of Our Savior. May the Lord console them in their deep sorrow and grief!
It is tragic when we consider the scourge of violence in our culture. We see violent behavior in homes, schools, shopping malls, and on our streets. Violence is prevalent in movies, video games, and television. As a society, we must declare this unacceptable. There is a “culture of violence” that is fed by multiple sources: the entertainment media, disintegrated family life, drug abuse and trafficking, gangs, and the availability of so many weapons. There is a failure to respect life. As followers of Christ, the Prince of Peace, we must never cease to proclaim that violence goes against the truth of our faith and the truth of our humanity.
Violence is fed by anger, intolerance, and hatred. There is a terrible climate created by words and actions (all-too-common today) that attack others and lack even the basic elements of civility and respect. In this Year of Faith in which the Holy Father calls for a revitalization of faith, we also must recognize the need for a moral revolution that recovers the values of goodness and right, respect and civility, forgiveness and love.
God’s commandment “thou shalt not kill” is a moral imperative for the common good. The Lord calls us to overcome this culture of violence with a culture of peace and to overcome evil with good. I believe we need a new national solidarity in confronting violence. Our faith calls us to cherish life, from conception to natural death, and to value kindness and compassion over anger and vengeance.
Two thousand years ago, the Prince of Peace was born in Bethlehem. His is the power that makes us capable, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, of peace with one another and communion with God Himself. How often Jesus spoke the words Peace be with you after He rose from the dead. These words are often repeated in the Church’s liturgy.
The Church teaches that peace is the work of justice and the effect of charity. It is a goal of Christian living, as indicated by Jesus who taught in the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. The promotion of peace is part of our Christian vocation.
On that first Christmas, after the angel of the Lord announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds, a multitude of the heavenly host praised God in these words: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. This is the peace that the world cannot give. It is the peace of Jesus: salvation. It is reconciliation with God the Father. Jesus is “our peace,” Saint Paul teaches. Jesus Himself said to the disciples in His farewell discourse: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you (John 14:27).
In the Entrance Antiphon of Christmas Midnight Mass, the Church proclaims: Today true peace has come down to us from heaven. It is Jesus who brings true peace to the world. We are called to welcome this gift by welcoming Christ into our lives. Each of us is called to overcome with Christ “the mystery of evil” by becoming instruments of peace.
When darkness and evil seem to prevail, as in the recent massacre of the innocents in the Connecticut school, we naturally seek an answer that will reassure us. The birth of Christ is the only answer. It is He who calms our fears and reinvigorates our hope. We believe that He has indeed vanquished the power of evil and that His love is ultimately victorious. Our faith assures us of the triumph of love over hatred, of life over death.
Just three days after Christmas, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Innocents (December 28th). On that day, we remember that terrible massacre that obliged the Holy Family to flee to Egypt. Let us remember in a special way in our prayers on that day the sufferings of the families of the innocent victims of the massacre in Connecticut. I will be celebrating Mass for these victims and their families at 12:05 PM on Friday, December 28th, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
The Catechism teaches that “the flight into Egypt and the massacre of the innocents make manifest the opposition of darkness to the light” (CCC 530). Senseless acts of violence remind us that there is still much darkness in the world. Yet, Christmas reminds us that the light of Christ shines in the darkness of sin and death. And so we must never lose hope in the message of Christmas, recognizing that peace is the heritage Christ won for us. That peace begins in our own hearts when we renounce hatred and evil and seek to overcome evil with good.
This Christmas, let us raise a great prayer to God for peace in our nation and in our world, for an end to violence, war, and terrorism. Let us pray for a culture of life and civilization of love. Let us pray that the birth of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, may fill us with renewed hope and that His light may spread throughout the world.
I wish to close with these words of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, spoken at Midnight Mass in 2005:
When we celebrate the Eucharist we find ourselves in Bethlehem, in the ‘house of bread’. Christ gives himself to us and, in doing so, gives us his peace. He gives it to us so that we can carry the light of peace within and give it to others. He gives it to us so that we can become peacemakers and builders of peace in the world. And so we pray: Lord, fulfill your promise! Where there is conflict, give birth to peace! Where there is hatred, make love spring up! Where darkness prevails, let light shine! Make us heralds of your peace! Amen.
My brothers and sisters, you are remembered in my Masses and prayers during the season of Christmas. A blessed Christmas to all!
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