As we begin this New Year, my prayer for each and every one of you is that this year will be a time when we grow deeper into the joy of peace, and grow in love within our family and parish life. I would like to use my letter this week with some more quotations from Pope Francis’ letter on the World Day of Peace, which will be celebrated within the Catholic Church for the 50th time this year.
“Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practice the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures that break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness.
Peacebuilding through active nonviolence is the natural and necessary complement to the Church’s continuing efforts to limit the use of force by the application of moral norms; she does so by her participation in the work of international institutions and through the competent contribution made by so many Christians to the drafting of legislation at all levels. Jesus himself offers a “manual” for this strategy of peacemaking in the Sermon on the Mount. The eight Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3-10) provide a portrait of the person we could describe as blessed, good and authentic. Blessed are the meek, Jesus tells us, the merciful and the peacemakers, those who are pure in heart, and those who hunger and thirst for justice.
This is also a programme and a challenge for political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, and business and media executives: to apply the Beatitudes in the exercise of their respective responsibilities. It is a challenge to build up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers. It is to show mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost. To do so requires the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process. To act in this way means to choose solidarity as a way of making history and building friendship in society. Active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is truly more powerful and more fruitful than conflict. Everything in the world is inter-connected. Certainly differences can cause frictions. But let us face them constructively and non-violently, so that “tensions and oppositions can achieve a diversified and life-giving unity,” preserving “what is valid and useful on both sides.
All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers. In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace.”
May each of be both inspired and challenged by these words of Pope Francis. At times there seems little we can do about the overwhelming levels of hatred and prejudice and violence in our world, and even here in our own country of South Africa. The temptation for all of us it to lose hope and simply accept that violence and hatred will forever be part of our lives. What inspires us in the words of Pope Francis is that, if each one of us makes a religious and moral decision to choose to live with hearts full of peace to others, then we will each contribute to the building up of the Kingdom of God.
Fr Gerard, CSsR