We Catholics begin each year with an appeal to Mary, Queen of Peace, to watch over us and guide us on the way to peace. One of the prayers for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the first day of the new year, expresses our hope in this way: “The virgin conceived and bore your Son who is called Wonderful God, Prince of Peace. May Christ’s peace reign in our hearts, now and forever. Amen.” We believe that true and lasting peace comes only through the Son of God, the ultimate peacemaker.
Only two months into this new year, 2022, peace was shattered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Pope Francis immediately called for an end to this violent, aggressive action, saying:
“I pray that all the parties involved refrain from any action that would cause even more suffering to the people, destabilizing coexistence between nations and bringing international law into disrepute.”
The pope also invited all people of goodwill to join him in a Day of Prayer and Fasting on Ash Wednesday, March 2. People throughout the world have responded, and their prayers are being lifted up to heaven with great urgency.
Pope Francis did not simply “call for peace.” He made an unannounced and unprecedented personal visit to Russia’s Ambassador to the Holy See to express his concerns. Afterward, he said:
“Once again the peace of all is threatened by partisan interests. I would like to appeal to those with political responsibility to examine their consciences seriously before God, who is the God of peace and not of war; who is the Father of all, not just of some, who wants us to be brothers and not enemies.”
The Holy Father has consistently urged us to “build bridges, not walls” and to recognize that the earth belongs to all the children of God but especially to those who are meek and humble of heart. The rich and the powerful may attempt to control the land by any means at their disposal including warfare and genocide, but, in the end, they will be unsuccessful.
“Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5:9). We become children of God when we are reconciled to Christ, but when we lose sight of God, through our selfishness and sin, peace disintegrates and violence proliferates to an unimaginable degree of cruelty.
As Pope Francis wrote in his encyclical Fratelli Tutti (On Fraternity and Social Friendship), “Every war leaves our world worse than it was before. War is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful capitulation, a stinging defeat before the forces of evil” (#261).
We Christians believe that peace comes only through Jesus Christ, who was sent into the world to be the Prince of Peace. We readily join our hands and hearts with people of diverse faiths and political points of view to seek peace by whatever nonviolent means are available to us.
There is only one way to peace. Christ is the way. May we follow him always.
Dan Conway is a member of Holy Trinity Church, serves as a member of The Record’s editorial board and is a writer, consultant and stewardship educator.