Peace on Earth
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means "God is with us." When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
Christ came to establish peace. We associate peace with Christmas, especially since the angels proclaimed peace to people of goodwill. We have historical examples of truces being declared for the time of Christmas, because there is something deep within us that says that Christmas should be a time for peace. But is peace merely an absence of war or conflict? No, rather, it is a resting in the right order of things. How do we achieve peace. Pope Francis points out four principles necessary for achieving peace: time over space; unity over conflict; realities over ideas; and the whole over the part. I would like to focus on the first principle of time over space.
There is a constant tension between fullness and limitation. Looking at these two concepts of time and space, time would be associated with fullness and space with limitation. “‘time’ has to do with fullness as an expression of the horizonwhich constantly opens before us, while each individual moment has to do with limitation as an expression of enclosure.” (Pope Francis, Evangelium Gaudium, 222) Too often, we focus on the momentary and fleeting aspects of reality, rather than taking a step back and appreciating the bigger picture. This keeps us caught up in the day-to-day, rather than living in peace.
King Ahaz was focused on space, running into trouble with God’s prophet. God shows himself to be worried predominantly about time, allowing seven hundred years to go by before he fulfilled the prophecy made to Ahaz. The child born of a Virgin would be the fulfillment of the prophecy, but come long after Ahaz stopped worrying about time or space.
Pope Benedict made a similar reflection in Jesus of Nazareth when he reflected on the Beatitude of “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” While the powerful may wage war over territory, in the end the land stays with the simple men and women who take care of things constantly, year in and year out, even down through the centuries. We have the tendency to seek quick solutions, but often we are called to be patient and initiate processes, rather than focus on possessing spaces.
If we truly want to achieve peace – on earth, but first in our own hearts – we have to shift from possessing to processing. This means learning to let go and beginning a series of steps that lead to gradual, but lasting change. Rather than holding on to old hurts that are stunting our growth, we can look beyond them to working on creating the “new me” in Christ. “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13) This experiential knowledge allows me to face the challenges in my life, confident in the one who can bring me true and lasting peace.
Jesus is the greatest example of giving priority to time over space. He never spent time trying to conquer territory, although this is what people were hoping for from the Messianic King. He spent thirty years in the background, preparing himself for his public ministry which would last only three years.
They say that “time heals all wounds.” This is not true necessarily. But often, time offers the perspective we need in order to look at our life situation more objectively and see the relative importance and unimportance of what has happened. The movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” offers a poignant example. Jimmy Stewart’s character is desperate because of the debts and difficulties he is facing. He wishes he had never been born and receives his wish. Looking at the way the world turned out without him, he began to see the great impact that he had been able to have.
He regains meaning in his life and begs for a second chance. He goes back to his “miserable life,” but is overjoyed at how it is working out. Our lives change when we shake off the shackles of victimhood and decide to take ownership of our lives. We face the difficulties and receive the great satisfaction and full responsibility for our choices. Life is not always easy, but it is always wonderful.
If we are going to have peace in our hearts, we have to understand that life is beautiful because God is the source of all life.