As we approach the year 2020, it seems important to stop and reflect on life. How is it going? Am I living the way I yearn to live—loving my God and my neighbor? Are we, as a society, organizing ourselves as Jesus directed—respecting the dignity of all, making decisions for the common good, offering special consideration to those who are most vulnerable?
I take seriously the call of our faith to participate in the pubic arena: In prayer, informed about current events and formed in faith, I seek to engage—to transform society in light of the Gospel of love.
Yet, it is hard not to become weary.
Each year, on January 1st, our Pope offers a message to celebrate World Day of Peace. Speaking to the deepest need of our shared humanity, he addresses realities of the day, through the lens of faith.
In this year’s World Day of Peace message, Pope Francis offers profound hope, even as he articulates the broken and divided world in which we live. His message describes peace as a journey to be undertaken in a spirit of dialogue, reconciliation and ecological conversion.
Pope Francis affirms that our lives are deeply damaged when we are subjected to conflict, violence or hate in any form. Personally, we are wounded. Collectively we are scarred. “Our human community bears, in its memory and its flesh, the scars of ever more devastating wars and conflicts….The terrible trials of internal and international conflicts…have enduring effects on the body and soul of humanity.”
Pope Francis describes a cycle of fear and division we are all subject to. “War…often begins with the inability to accept the diversity of others, which then fosters attitudes of aggrandizement and domination born of selfishness and pride, hatred and the desire to caricature, exclude and even destroy the other.”
This cycle of fear and destruction can be self-perpetuating. “Mistrust and fear weaken relationships and increase the risk of violence, creating a vicious circle that can never lead to a relationship of peace.”
Pope Francis asks, “How do we undertake a journey of peace and mutual respect? How do we break the unhealthy mentality of threats and fears? How do we break the current dynamic of distrust?”
To frame these questions, Pope Francis states: Peace is a journey of hope in the face of obstacles and trial. “Hope is the virtue that inspires us and keeps us moving forward, even when obstacles seem insurmountable.”
We must identify and overcome our fears. We must shatter the culture of conflict through encounters with diversity. We must pray and repent of our own failures, finding healing and wholeness.
As we journey through these transformations, we will find hope. We will send ripples of compassion into our community. Together, we will find courage to speak boldly, in love, to power.
“The journey of reconciliation calls for patience and trust. Peace will not be obtained unless it is hoped for.”
Just in time to move into 2020, we are reminded of God’s incredible love, forgiveness and steadfast presence. Pope Francis prays, “May the God of peace bless us and come to our aid.”