Luke 2: 1-14
Fr. John Tran
The Angels proclaim to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Now, let us think about what peace really means.
T. S. Elliot has St. Thomas Becket saying about peace in a homily: Reflect now, how Our Lord Himself spoke of Peace. He said to His disciples: “My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” Did He mean peace as we think of it: the kingdom of England at peace with its neighbors, the barons at peace with the King, the householder counting over his peaceful gains, the swept hearth, his best wine for a friend at the table, his wife singing to the children? Those men His disciples knew no such things: they went forth to journey afar, to suffer by land and sea, to know torture, imprisonment, disappointment, to suffer death by martyrdom. What then did He mean? If you ask that, remember that He said also, “Not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” So then, He gave to his disciples peace, but not peace as the world gives.
At the time of Jesus’ birth and for about 200 years after, we say that the world was at peace. This peace began with Caesar Augustus and was called the Pax Romana, the Roman Peace. It is true that there was a certain kind of peace; but it was a peace bought at price. It was a peace enforced from without. “Peace” meant that everyone was in their place, bowing to the authority of the Emperor. It was a peace built on intimidation and violence against the vulnerable, the poor, and the powerless. We can say it was an anxious peace.
And then, one night in the outskirts of the great empire, a new vision of peace appeared. It was a peace centered on that perfect love between a mother and her new born child. It was a peace that brought together heaven and earth.
The Angel’s song heard by the shepherds that night proclaimed the peace that would be the central building block of the kingdom this child would begin.
From the life of this child when he grew into a man, we learn that peace is not just the absence of strife, but the presence of compassion and forgiveness. Peace is not being afraid to do anything or the absence of action, but rather trying to bring about reconciliation and healing. Peace is not enforced by one’s power, but is love in an atmosphere of respect and generosity. Peace is not a power, but a responsibility for “all men and women of good will.” As we see from Jesus’ life, peace is built on service, humility, simplicity of life, and creating an atmosphere of justice and respect for the dignity of the most vulnerable. Peace is a state that comes from within, not something enforced from without.
Today the peace of God dawns. God’s love takes on a human face and heart and body. This face, heart, and body began with that of the Infant who was God and Human. But it continues in our own faces, hearts, and bodies. The work of building God’s kingdom of peace begins on this Christmas Day.
What concrete ways can we transform “peace” from the absence of conflict into God’s peace of generosity, forgiveness, and humility?