The message of Pope Francis for this year’s World Day of Peace began with these words: “Peace to all people and to all nations on earth! Peace, which the angels proclaimed to the shepherds on Christmas night, is a profound aspiration for everyone, for each individual and all peoples, and especially for those who most keenly suffer its absence.”

We all desire peace and harmony in our lives.  We greet our own families and friends with words of peace at Christmas and New Year. Yet often the pressures and the problems and conflicts which each one of us experiences often make it difficult for us to feel at peace.

This past year has been marked by much turmoil around the world, and these last few days have shown us that here in this country there is an abhorrent amount of violence in families and communities.

While we may feel helpless when hearing the enormity of these tragedies, we can begin with ourselves, by bringing our anxieties trustingly to the Prince of Peace.   In the words of the opening prayer of the Mass for the Third Sunday of Advent, let us ask him to “prepare our hearts, and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which his presence will bestow”.

Peace was the constant greeting of Jesus to his friends and followers. No matter how troubled and anxious we are, he promises a tranquility that will calm our hearts.  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27).

As we celebrate this beautiful Christmas season, we can bring to the Christ Child our longing for peace in our own hearts and the inspiration to help build a society that is based on reconciliation, peace and justice for our young people.

In the words of the Christmas Carol, we pray:

O holy child of Bethlehem

descend to us we pray.

Cast out our sin, and enter in,

be born in us today.

– Bishop Patrick Dunn

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