January 7, 2011

Be Our Guest / Steve Seitz

God’s gift of true peace is within our grasp in our common humanity

Just a few weeks ago, as the aroma of Christmas dinner drifted from the kitchen, memories of Christmases past began flooding my mind.

How quickly, though, I was snapped back to reality by the happy sounds of my family gathered together, a family spanning generations.

From the little child, unaware of this first deposit in her Christmas memory bank, to the eldest adult, who surely recalls my first Christmas years ago.

The sound of wrapping paper being ripped away, the occasional “awesome!” and “Mom, look!” made me realize that, for all the things that set each Christmas apart, in this way they are all the same— gifts given and gifts received.

So it has been about 2,011 years? Imagine it. You are a shepherd on night watch.

Just another night, except there is that peculiar star. “What’s up with that?” you wonder.

And then the whole sky lights up as a choir of angels joyfully announce that God has just joined us in history, and is lying in a stable! “Peace on Earth!” they sing! The gift of peace, given to anyone brave enough to truly receive it, was given to them.

Peace—it is not just for Christmas!

In just a few words, “If you want peace, work for justice,” Pope Paul VI went right to the heart of why we—all of humankind—have never fully received that gift of peace, but instead have spent centuries fighting over our concept of it.

Could it be that the peace that God offers is more than the lack of conflict? Could it be that we are afraid of what the justice part of the equation means? It could be, but one thing is certain. Until we are brave enough to really work for it, we will never know.

The gift of Christ, the greatest gift of all time, came wrapped in human flesh, and it is in humanity that we find him even now.

This is where we, as disciples of Christ, have our work cut out for us. To take up the challenge of peace, we have no choice but to drop the armor of prejudice and

self-righteousness, the false sense of ownership, and instead embrace the stewardship that we have been entrusted with.

C.S. Lewis, in The Problem of Pain, wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Can you hear it? Around the world, and here in own backyard, God is shouting out loud. He has been shouting through the centuries, even within our own hearts, “I am!”

So what has all that got to do with the peace that the angels announced at Jesus’ birth?

Having quoted a pope, an author and a group of angels, it seems fitting to quote our Savior: “The kingdom is here among you” (Lk 17:21). Isn’t that what Jesus said?

He said that very much in the present tense. “Peace on Earth!”

The peace of the kingdom of God is here, all wrapped up in humanity, where it has been since the angels sang that joyful song.

To quote Jesus again: “Be not afraid!” (Mt 10:31).

The gift of true peace is here, within our grasp, if only we would dare to receive it.

(Steve Seitz is a member of St. Louis de Montfort Parish in Fishers, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese.)

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