Just before Christmas, we learned of more violence in the world. In Berlin, Germany, a truck drove into a crowd of holiday shoppers at a Christmas market, killing at least 12 people and injuring as many as 50.
This attack came just hours after the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey. The gunman was identified as a Turkish police officer who yelled, “Don’t forget Aleppo. Don’t forget Syria,” after he shot Andrei G. Karlov in the back.
World Day of Peace
The world is filled with violence, yet we still yearn for peace. Is it possible? As Catholics, we even have a day set aside to pray for peace.
On January 1, we observe the World Day of Peace in the Catholic Church on the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
The World Day of Peace was introduced in 1967 by Blessed Paul VI, inspired by the encyclical Pacem in terris (“Peace on Earth”) of St. John XXIII and with reference to his own encyclical Populorum progressio (“On the Development of Peoples”). The day was first observed on January 1, 1968.
Connection between Mary and peace
It is worth reflecting on the connection between Mary and peace. Of course, we know her as the Queen of Peace as we also call her son, Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
At his birth on the first Christmas, the angels were reported to sing, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Lk 2:14).
Bishop Paul S. Loverde (now bishop emeritus of Arlington, Va.) wrote about this connection in a column in the Arlington Catholic Herald in January of 2013 entitled “Mary and the Gift of Peace.”
Bishop Loverde said, “That hymn with its promise and hope continues to echo in our hearts, especially in these days when the news remains troubling and disturbing. Surely, we turn to our Mother, the ‘God-Bearer,’ and ask: ‘O Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Peace, obtain for us true and lasting peace!’”
Becoming instruments of peace
Of course, we still have troubling news in the world as we approach 2017. As Bishop Loverde goes on to say, peace is ultimately God’s gift — not a thing, but a person, Jesus Christ. It was the role of Mary to bear Jesus in her womb and then to bring Jesus to us, advising us to “do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5).
So by imitating His life in our own, by living the Gospel message, we might become instruments of His peace.
Bishop Loverde urges, “As each day of the new year unfolds, we must be people of peace in our thoughts, words, and deeds, beginning with the family and continuing in the workplace, the school, the neighborhood, and the parish.”
Pope Francis issued his message for the World Day of Peace 2017 appropriately on December 8, 2016, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “Mary is the Queen of Peace,” he reminded us. “Let us pray for her guidance.”
Pope Francis said, “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.”
So it’s not just world leaders that can help bring peace. It’s each and every one of us. Let us continue to pray to Mary and follow her Son’s example in working for peace in our world.