Today we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, and what a glorious day it is! The light who, not only created us, the light whom we live, move and have our being within has entered into the world. Yes, our Savior is our Alpha, our Omega – our everything! Today’s Gospel so beautifully reveals the fullness of the truth of Christ. Oh how many exquisite hours we could spend bathing in the beauty of Christ as we meditate on today’s readings. However, as I often do when I read scripture I ask myself why the Church selected these particular readings today.
While today’s first reading, Psalm, second reading and Gospel all reveal the all-embracing beauty, power and consubstantiality of God and Jesus Christ, we are also called to reflect on this in light of our previous Advent readings. This Advent season revealed to us the preparation that took place prior to the holy birth; including the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph’s role in the holy family, and the life of Saint John the Baptist. Looking back we see that much took place before the Light entered the world.
Our Advent Scripture has also been preparing for his Second Coming, and it is in light of this that I find today’s Gospel particularly intriguing. “But to those who did accept him he gave power to become (my emphasis added) children of God” What does this mean – he gave them power to become children of God? Does this mean they are not already children of God? Do they have to take additionally steps before they fully become God’s children? Which leads me to ask, do we have to take additional steps before we fully become God’s children? Well… Jesus did give us two commandments. He called us to love one another and to have no other god above God. Jesus called us to do “something”. He called us to love more which would serve to more fully unite our hearts with his.
God placed in our hearts the desire to properly orientate ourselves towards him and to love one him, which in turn creates a desire to love our brothers. We have all experienced the bliss of love with a loved one and we have all, undoubtedly, experienced God moments where our hearts are filled with love for Christ. These are all gifts God gives us freely. However, a battle ensues within our hearts when we withhold love for another out of fear, anger, resentment, and unforgiveness – out of sin. Yet, God gave us, those who accept him and believe in him, the power to become his children full of the heavenly gifts due such royalty.
So what does this have to do with peace on earth, the title of this reflection? To begin, I believe we have been given the power to facilitate world peace and this peace must first begin in our hearts. Today we are seeing an increase in scientific studies pointing out the connections between our heart emotions and the impact they have in our lives and in the world around us. This is exciting. Finally, science is catching up to faith as their newfound “discoveries” are found already present in Sacred Scripture.
An interesting project took place in the early 1980’s titled “International Peace Project in the Middle East”. You can find it in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, December 1988 Vol. 32. I know this is an older project; however, it addressed conflict in the Middle East and, given this, I feel it is extremely relevant today. In the study individuals we trained to “feel” peace in the war torn regions of Israel and Lebanon through prayer and meditation. What the project revealed was amazing. As the individuals prayed and meditated on peace the decrease in conflict in the area was statistically significant. However, it gets better. The project revealed that it only took a small number of praying individuals to facilitate a positive effect and curtail the conflict. However, the conflict arose again when the prayer and meditation stopped.
Perhaps this is the “power”, the power of prayer, that God gave those who believe in his Son. Perhaps this is the power we need to garner as we prepare for his Second Coming. I believe so. God has given us the power to have a positive effect on the world through prayer, through meditation and through the emotions of love, joy, and forgiveness. However, we must do the work necessary so that our hearts become open to such beauty, so that our hearts become a worthy place for our Savior to enter into.
Now we must ask ourselves, how can our hearts become a worthy container for our Savior? What steps must I take so that he can dwell within me fully? The answer is found in the commandments Jesus gave us – love God and love our brothers. To love like this requires our full surrender to the Father because it is only God, Love himself, who can properly instruct us in love. To love like this requires forgiveness, understanding and acceptance of the others in our lives. Additionally, it requires that we consistently “show up” for God through prayer, meditation, by reading his Sacred Scripture, by attending Holy Mass, and by receiving the Holy Sacraments especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
So let’s begin by loving those closest to us during this Christmas season, our family. This, unfortunately, can be the hardest place for us to love, after all, it is our family members who most often hurt us the deepest. However, remember my friends, anytime there is hurt and an absence of love, sin has entered in. Love, being from God, and sin cannot co-exist in the same place. So when we are hurt, consider the source of the pain – the Evil One who wants to kill and destroy your family, As believers we have been granted, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to ability to make a change; to choose forgiveness, to choose acceptance, to choose peace, to chose to prayer, and to choose to love.
Let’s together follow the lead of Pope Francis in this Year of Mercy. God will grant us his mercy if we ask, he will fill our hearts with love if we ask. He will do this by revealing to us the steps we must take so that or hearts heal, so that we love more. Let’s begin to facilitate peace on earth with the help of our Savior, let’s invite him into our hearts and ask for healing so that his light will shine through us for all to see. Let us pray for peace in the world without ceasing. Let’s do this as we prepare for his Second Coming and give Jesus a Christmas gift from our hearts.
Sacred Heart of Jesus – have mercy on us.