50 years ago.
That’s when Pope Paul VI dedicated this day to universal peace.
On the first day of every year since then,
every pope has issued a declaration on social justice,
including statements on the United Nations, human rights,
women's rights, labor unions, economic development,
the sacredness of life, international diplomacy,
peace in the Holy Land, globalization, and terrorism.
Now it’s Francis’ turn, with his message
for the 50th World Day of Peace tomorrow [today].
Peace is a big deal for Catholics.
But when we look around our world, it’s not hard to find wars.
Conflicts, crises, insurgencies, unrest, rebellion, clashes…
whatever term we use to describe it,
it’s nowhere close to peace.
The four big ones—the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria—
have taken over three million lives.
Closer to home,
the Mexican Drug War has killed more than 165,000.
Here in our US of A some of us live in peace—
a secure home in a quiet neighborhood,
respectful interchanges with co-workers
and strangers at the grocery store or in the library,
freedom from harassment
as we go around town or travel for the holidays.
But some of us don’t have that safe home or quiet neighborhood.
Some of us head out the door
wary of strangers who might not respect our shared humanity
because of the color of our skin or the disability we have,
because of our gender or our income,
because of some difference about us.
A significant number of people in our country
are afraid about what will happen in the next four years.
We face a real challenge if the next President
is able to do even a small part of what he has talked about.
People of color are concerned that racial hatred
will increase even more,
that more black churches will be burned, more children killed.
LGBT people wonder if the harassment will get worse,
if another unhinged person will open fire on them.
Latino citizens worry about getting arrested and deported
if they don’t carry their ID with them all the time.
Muslims are uneasy about threats of a registry.
Senior citizens are anxious that attempts to cut Social Security
will make them lose their homes.
And many of us are stressed about the dismantling of protections
that keep our air, water, and food safe.
We’re nervous about the easing of regulations
that make our cars and furnaces and medicines safe.
Pope Francis, while not naming names,
has been consistent in insisting
that the values articulated by the candidate
are not Christian values.
there’s a whole lot of disruption in our general peacefulness.
In the middle of all of this, we have to remember
that we are called to follow the Way of Jesus.
He calls us to be peacemakers.
But how do WE bring peace?
How do WE make peace?
Like Jesus, we have to stand in relationship, in solidarity,
with the marginalized.
We have to learn about people who are different from us.
We have to put ourselves in a position to have friends
who are different from us.
We have to get out of our silos and walk the way
with people who are victimized in our society.
We have to let our voice be heard
on the issues of justice that lead to conflict—
the racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, islamophobia,
homophobia, the climate change denying, economic inequality,
gun violence, drugs, nuclear proliferation… the list goes on.
The first step, though, is prayer,
that basic conversation with God,
that deep encounter that nourishes peace in our hearts.
We will bring peace when, as Paul tells the Philippians,
we direct our thoughts to what is true, respectable, honest,
decent, virtuous, and praiseworthy.
Now, more than ever before, we must pray for peace,
stand with those who are in the way of threats to their peace:
stand with the blacks, browns, and tans;
the LGBTs, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, migrants,
people living on social security, prisoners,
minimum wage workers, victims of gun violence…
and stand with the earth, our common home.
Last Sunday we celebrated the birthday of the Prince of Peace.
The need today is just as great as—even greater than—
it was 2,000 years ago.
We know we stand in need of peace in our homes, our families,
our neighborhoods, our cities, our country, and way beyond.
We even stand in need of peace within ourselves.
It seems overwhelming.
Yet we have hope as we step into this new year.
As Isaiah tells us, the Spirit will be poured out on us,
and our work for justice will bring about peace,
and calm, and security.
And the blessing has already been given to us.
It’s the blessing God told Moses to give to Aaron to use,
recorded in the book of Numbers.
It’s the blessing we’ll ask for at the end of today’s Mass:
May our God bless and keep you!
May our God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you!
May our God look kindly upon you and give you peace!
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006