The first day of the year is for us Catholics a day of prayer for peace (together with the feast of Mary mother of God). The first reading is always taken from the Book of Numbers (6: 22 – 27) where the Lord tells Moses:
“This is how you are to bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them:
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace.”
I was thinking of three words that can help us during this year make that peace possible.
1. Reconciliation. Christians are called to be “experts” in forgiveness and reconciliation. We daily pray saying “forgive us … as we forgive”. We well know the need to be forgiven, reconciled with God and with one another. “Be merciful like the Father” said Jesus.
Still, we are very much aware of how difficult it sometimes becomes. Many times, talking with people, one comes across tensions in the family, problems with our neighbours… Many times people express their struggle to forgive. Where there is no forgiveness, there is no peace. When there is no forgiveness we are not at peace!
Living with anger, hatred, looking for revenge… is a clear sign there is no peace in our hearts, families, communities…
We know that forgiving and being forgiven are essential parts of our journey. Nor one without the other.
2. Dialogue. I think it goes hand in hand with the previous one. There is always a risk of only listening to those who think like us. We risk building our lives listening to what we want to hear without giving any space to other people’s point of view.
In September last year Mrs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (chairperson of the African Union Commission) said: “Africa has been stricken with great griefs for a long time. If people establish dialogue, they won’t take up arms. We must fight all kinds of racism and discrimination in order to sustain peace and development. We believe that conflict all around Africa can be solved with dialogue and consensus.”
Listening to each other in our families, communities, churches… is a strong foundation of peace.
3. Solidarity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and people, and the assiduous practice of fraternity” (CCC 2304).
The dignity of persons and people is very much at risk in many places. We have seen it in the reality of refugees and migrants during 2015.
The serious drought we are facing in our part of the world and the perspective of many not having enough food on the table is challenging us. We talk about basic needs, the “daily bread” we pray for.
Pope Francis message for the celebration of today’s world day of peace is entitled: “overcome indifference and win peace”. Closing our eyes and hearts to this and other situations is not an option and it is not about wondering what government, the churches, the NGOs are going to do about it. It starts with you and me. All of us need to ask ourselves how we are going to guarantee “the dignity of persons and people” close to us.
One of Jesus’ beatitudes say:
“Blessed are the peacemakers:
they shall be recognised as children of God” (Mt 5:9)
May we all be seen as children of God because of our commitment to building peace and may Mary, the Queen of Peace we celebrate today, be with us and pray for us.
+ José Luis IMC
Bishop of Manzini