Glory to God in the highest heavens, and peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased!—Luke 2:14
If peace is to be secure, then the long-suffering and long-starved, forgotten peoples of the world, the underprivileged and the undernourished, must begin to realize without delay the promise of a new day and a new life.
—Ralph Bunche, Nobel Peace Prize, 1950
Peace be with you! Pax et bonum! Shalom! Salaam! I don’t know about you, but I’m amazed at how many of us greet one another with some word or sign of peace these days. I know why we do so. We are hungering for peace in a time of so much violence and conflict, so much unrest and fear, so much arguing and nasty language, so much incivility and just plain bad manners. We hope to balance all this negativity with a semblance of positive energy brought on by peaceful words and actions.
When I came to the convent in 1957, I was greeted with the Latin phrase “Pax et bonum!” which I quickly learned meant “Peace and all good!” Every time we entered a building, we greeted one another with that phrase. I liked it because it felt like peace came upon anyone who was present. It was also often accompanied with a hug, another sign of peace. I pictured Jesus and his followers greeting one another in a similar way, and certainly St. Francis and his followers kept up the tradition. Many of the Sisters in my community continue this tradition to this day, and we certainly need it as we are daily bombarded with so many violent actions and events.
When I think of the time in which Jesus was born into this world, and read the story of the angels visiting the shepherds and singing of peace on earth, I am reminded that there has always been conflict in this world and that Jesus came to help us to see how important it is to love one another in order for there to be peace. Just what that peace entails is described by Ralph Bunche in his Nobel lecture quoted above. Real peace is not just a good feeling. Real peace should be good for everyone: the long-suffering and long-starved, the forgotten peoples of the world, the underprivileged and the undernourished. And this peace must begin . . . without delay and the promise of a new day and a new life.
During this Christmas season, we certainly have many opportunities to bring peace to refugees and immigrants, to the homeless among us, to family members in need, to neighbors in crisis, to co-workers who have recently lost jobs, to someone who has been struggling with cancer, and to a friend who has just received news of the death of a loved one. How can we do all this, you ask, when we have our own families to care for over the holidays? Give some of what you lavishly give to your family and friends to a stranger. Give some of your precious time to someone who needs a ride to the doctor or to the grocery store. Give a donation to an agency that helps refugees get settled in our area. Give clothing to an agency helping flood victims or hurricane victims. Give household items to someone who has lost everything in a fire. You get my drift—give, give, give. This may mean that your family won’t get as much this year as before, but with so much given to us, how can we neglect others who have less or nothing?
Remember when the angels sang to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased”! We are certainly among those with whom God is pleased when we help our brothers and sisters. The gift we receive for our generosity is peace! That’s how peace comes and stays in this world and a new day and a new life comes to all.
Peace! Shalom! Salaam! Pax et bonum!❦