It was no coincidence that the pope’s message for the 46th World Day of Peace was issued the same day as the horrible massacre at a Connecticut elementary school. The pope’s statement was not, of course, in reaction to the shooting that took the precious lives of 27 people, including 20 children. It was an annual message that is delivered by the pope and is part of the Church’s effort to enlighten all people, Christians and non-Christians alike, on efforts to achieve true peace around the globe. The World Day of Peace is celebrated each year on Jan. 1.
The theme of the pontiff’s statement, “Blessed are the Peacemakers,” was based on the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5. It is another powerful example of how the Holy Spirit speaks through the Vicar of Christ.
I heard about the profound and prophetic words of the pope about the same time the news of the shooting was hitting the airwaves and the horrifying details were being posted all over the Internet. In Connecticut, we had a clear example of exactly what the pope was talking about; there is no peace if there is no respect for life and the natural law.
“The path to the attainment of the common good and to peace is above all that of respect for human life in all its many aspects, beginning with its conception, through its development and up to its natural end. True peacemakers, then, are those who love, defend and promote human life in all its dimensions, personal, communitarian and transcendent. Life in its fullness is the height of peace. Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life,” the pope wrote.
Think of all the violence that society has not only come to accept but also endorses, promotes and demands as a right. We go about our daily business. We drive by the Planned Parenthood office. We allow ourselves and our children to soak up hour after hour of violent messages from the media.
We pay little attention to the growing pressures calling for legalized assisted suicide, and then we wonder why the world has become such a cold-blooded place.
Pope Benedict basically said we have created for ourselves a comfortable illusion:
“Those who insufficiently value human life and, in consequence, support among other things the liberalization of abortion, perhaps do not realize that in this way they are proposing the pursuit of a false peace. The flight from responsibility, which degrades human persons, and even more so the killing of a defenseless and innocent being, will never be able to produce happiness or peace.
Indeed how could one claim to bring about peace, the integral development of peoples or even the protection of the environment without defending the life of those who are weakest, beginning with the unborn? Every offence against life, especially at its beginning, inevitably causes irreparable damage to development, peace and the environment.
“Neither is it just to introduce surreptitiously into legislation false rights or freedoms which, on the basis of a reductive and relativistic view of human beings and the clever use of ambiguous expressions aimed at promoting a supposed right to abortion and euthanasia, pose a threat to the fundamental right to life.”
As we begin this New Year we all need to take a closer look at the statement and a closer look within our own hearts.
What are we doing to promote a true culture of life? Or maybe it is time to revisit the words of that Catholic folk hymn so popular in the 1970s: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”