Blessed are the Peacemakers
Every day, we hear of issues from around the world, such as mass shooting, acts of terrorism, war, poverty, or persecution that affect us more or less directly. The problems can seem so large, complex, and remote that we may wonder: “What can I possibly do?” In his Message for the 49th World Day of Peace, to be celebrated on Jan. 1, 2016, Pope Francis urges us to overcome such challenges by replacing isolation with community, and indifference with solidarity. This issue of Matthew 25 is exploring why we should overcome inaction and indifference in order to work toward peace and respect for the lives and dignity of all people.
Overcome Indifference and Win Peace
(Overview of Pope Francis 2016 Message for the World Day of Peace from Vatican Radio)
Indifference in regard to the scourges of our time is one of the fundamental causes of the lack of peace. Today, indifference is often linked to various forms of individualism which cause isolation, ignorance, selfishness and, therefore, lack of interest and commitment. Increase of information does not mean per se an increase of attention to the problems, if it is not accompanied by solidarity based openness of conscience. To this end, the contribution provided by educators, teachers, people of culture, media, practitioners, intellectuals and artists, in addition of the family, is essential. Indifference can be won only by responding together to this challenge. Peace is to be worked at: it is not something that one gains without efforts, without conversion of mind and heart, without a sense of creativity and positive engagement in discussion. Such an action must build a sense of responsibility and awareness about the serious problems and challenges afflicting our time, such as, fundamentalism, intolerance and massacres, persecutions on account of faith and ethnicity, disregard for freedom and the destruction of the rights of entire peoples, the exploitation of human beings submitted to different forms of slavery, corruption and organized crime, war and the plight of refugees and forcibly displaced persons. Such awareness should also seek opportunities and possibilities to fight these evils: the creation of a culture of law, education in dialogue and cooperation are, in this context, the fundamental forms of a constructive response.
Peace is possible where the rights of every human being are recognized and respected, heard and known, according to freedom and justice. The 2016 Message for World Day of Peace aims to be a starting point for all people of good will, particularly those who work in the education, media, culture, each one acting according to their possibilities and to their best aspirations to build together a more conscious and merciful, and, therefore, more free and fair world.
(The full message will be available in mid-December on the Vatican website)
Our world, caught up in wars, violence, and various forms of injustice, is witnessing an unprecedented movement of peoples. How we deal with them is a test of our humanity, our respect for human dignity, and above all our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need. (Pope Francis, 11/27/15)
Let Us be Peacefully United in our Differences
(Excerpts of Pope Francis’ speech, University of Nairobi, Kenya, November 26, 2015)
“Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is not a luxury. It is not something extra or optional, but essential, something which our world, wounded by conflict and division, increasingly needs. Indeed, religious beliefs and practice condition who we are and how we understand the world around us. They are for us a source of enlightenment, wisdom, and solidarity, and thus enrich the societies in which we live. By caring for the spiritual growth of our communities, by forming minds and hearts in the truths and values taught by our religious traditions, we become a blessing to the communities in which our people live. In democratic and pluralistic societies like Kenya, cooperation between religious leaders and communities becomes an important service to the common good.
In this light, and in an increasingly interdependent world, we see ever more clearly the need for interreligious understanding, friendship, and collaboration in defending the God given dignity of individuals and peoples, and their right to live in freedom and happiness. By upholding respect for that dignity and those rights, religions play an essential role in forming consciences, instilling in the young the profound spiritual values of our respective traditions, and training good citizens, capable of infusing civil society with honesty, integrity, and a world view which values the human person over power and material gain.
Here, I think of the importance of our common conviction that the God whom we seek to serve is a God of peace. His holy name must never be used to justify hatred and violence. … All too often, young people are being radicalized in the name of religion to sow discord and fear, and to tear at the very fabric of our societies. How important it is that we be seen as prophets of peace, peacemakers who invite others to live in peace, harmony, and mutual respect!
… The world rightly expects believers to work together with people of goodwill in facing the many problems affecting our human family. As we look to the future, let us pray that all men and women will see themselves as brothers and sisters, peacefully united in and through our differences. Let us pray for peace!”
(Read full text here)
Acts of Terror Damage Beyond Physical Harm
by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York
“…. The attack in Paris has, properly, led to a reexamination of our own security here in the United States, making sure that we do all that we can to prevent such an attack from ever happening again. One of the most fundamental responsibilities of any government is to ensure the safety of its citizens. A careful review of our immigration policies, to be certain that we have proper screening, background checks and procedures in place to prevent terrorists from slipping through the cracks and entering our country, is appropriate and necessary……
At the same time, we cannot let our nation’s fundamental values be destroyed in the process of renewing and strengthening our immigration laws….. Welcoming immigrants has always been at the heart of the American experience, especially for those fleeing war, oppression or other disasters — natural or manmade — in their home countries. There can be no denying that the refugees from Syria have experienced unimaginable brutality and violence. We must find a way to open our doors to them. Pope Francis got it right when he reminded us that we must never forget that each refugee has, “an inalienable dignity which is theirs as a child of God.”….
Today, we must once again make certain that the hatred directed toward us by others does not in turn lead us to close our minds and our hearts to the pain and suffering of those in need. To do so would mean a different kind of destruction, this time to our morals and our principles…..Terrorist acts may destroy our buildings, but they cannot be allowed to cause us to betray and destroy our ideals and our morals. We must safeguard who we are as a people and as a nation as zealously as we safeguard our borders.”
(Read full text here)
“Faced with these intolerable acts, one cannot but condemn such an unspeakable affront to human dignity. I wish to reaffirm strongly that the path of violence and hatred does not solve the problems of humanity, and to abuse God’s name to justify such a way is blasphemy!” (Pope Francis, November 2015)
Syrian Refugees are a Test of our Nation’s Values
by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C.
… “Some Americans want to close our doors to Syrian families, …. who are fleeing for their lives. The strong opposition to Syrian refugees coming to the United States is an expression of the fear Americans justifiably feel from the horror of the Paris attacks. In times such as these, we must be careful not to let our fear cloud our judgment as to the best way forward, and, in so doing, sacrifice our values as a nation.
Since 2011, when the Syrian conflict began, the United States has resettled a little over 2,000 Syrians—predominately women and children. This is a tiny fraction of the 4 million Syrian refugees who have fled their country for safety. Accepting 10,000 more next year, as the Administration has proposed, would send a signal to the world that we are willing to share the burden of protecting the refugees, until the conflict in Syria can be ended.
Syrians, like other refugees, go through several interviews by U.S. officials and multiple security clearances over a two year period…. According to the State Department, if the process does not garner enough information to ensure a refugee applicant is not a security threat, then that person is not admitted to the United States……
Some have suggested that the United States should only accept Syrians and Iraqis who are Christian. Of course, Christian minorities … from the region deserve our support and protection…. [But] the large majority of Syrians fleeing religious and other forms of persecution are, in fact, Muslim, targeted by extremists in their own faith tradition. Is it Christian to deny them protection because of their religious beliefs?….
Our nation was founded by those who were escaping religious persecution … [and has] offered refuge to millions of persons from around the world.… If we close our doors to these refugees, we are not only sacrificing our moral influence globally, we also are giving those who want to hurt us more power and influence to do so later. … We must remember the origins of our nation and stay true to its principles: that we are a nation built by immigrants and refugees and that we honor and protect religious beliefs of all who come here.
(Read the full text here)
What Can You Do
- Pray: use the prayer below;
- Get inspired: visit www.WeAreSaltAndLight.org and click on “Success Stories” for real examples of what communities are doing around the U.S.;
- Reach out: explore opportunities to encounter your neighbors locally and globally (www.aggiecatholic.org/serve);
- Take action: advocate for policies that address issues that impact our brothers and sisters at home and around the world (www.ConfrontGlobalPoverty.org and www.usccb.org at “Take Action Now” page under “Issues and Action”).
Prayer to Overcome Indifference
All too often, Lord, we turn away from the world’s many problems, which seem too big, too complex, or too far away. Forgive us our indifference. It is easier, Lord, to see only what is around us: our lives, our homes, our challenges. Forgive us our isolation. Help us to see with your eyes: eyes which notice one another and help us understand. Help us to dream your dream: of communities that reach out and dialogue and where diverse people creatively cooperate. Help us to be people of solidarity and action, so moved by prayer, encounter, and understanding that peace can become a reality. Amen.
Life, Justice, & Charity Activities at St. Mary’s
- Christmas Giving Tree from Nov 28 to Dec 14: All the gifts to the church by Tuesday December 14 in order for the gifts to be delivered in time for Christmas.
- Deanery Pro-Life mass at St. Mary’s Wednesday January 20, 2016, 5:30 pm, with Bishop Vasquez.
- Prolife presentation from World Youth Alliance on Thursday January 21 at 6:30 pm on advocating for prolife at the United Nations
- Prolife March and Rally Saturday January 23, 2016 at the Capitol in Austin