23 For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. 24 As the Scriptures say,
“People are like grass;
their beauty is like a flower in the field.
The grass withers and the flower fades.
25 But the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And that word is the Good News that was preached to you.
In the Pope’s Christmas Message this year, his theme was peace, and that Christmas is the birth of Peace. “Jesus Christ is also the way of peace. By his incarnation, passion, death and resurrection, he has opened the way that leads from a world closed in on itself and oppressed by the dark shadows of enmity and war, to a world that is open and free to live in fraternity and peace. Let us follow that road!” “To follow Jesus means doing away with the burdens that can weigh on us and become obstacles, the Pope went on to say, and they can include greed, pride, thirst for power, hypocrisy, problems of old as they are of today that "exclude us from the grace of Christmas" and "block the entrance to the path of peace." The Pope lamented that a result of this reality is that the "icy winds of war" still hurt humanity today.” (https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2022-12/pope-at-urbi-et-orbi-the-lord-s-birth-is-the-birth-of-peace.html)
It's a powerful message for a world so war-weary, from Ukraine to Yemen, Afghanistan to Algeria and so many points in between. Civil war, terrorist insurgency, drug wars, ethnic war and invasions continue to make headlines and break our hearts. (https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/countries-currently-at-war)
It’s tempting to think that we are helpless in the face of oppression and war and strife. After all, what can one little me do, way over here, to make any difference to those suffering way over there? Well, this has been the dilemma of the world from the beginning, hasn’t it? How can we possibly stir the hearts or change the behavior of others? The answer is simple. We can’t. Molding hearts is God’s territory. The Holy Spirit influences people to change their own behavior.
But we are not helpless, nor unnecessary. Prayer is an activating force that can send God’s power anywhere in the world, to any people or person. “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16b
In addition to prayer, we must love each other warmly and deeply with all of our hearts. A loving heart that puts others’ needs and best interests first has no room for “greed, pride, thirst for power, hypocrisy”, and other sinful desires that lead to conflict, strife and war.
Satan, that deceiver of old, would love to convince us that we must meet force with force and subjugate others to bend them to our will. He delights for us to think that we are helpless to change the world and combat injustice. He doesn’t want us to realize that by changing ourselves, by allowing Jesus to work in and through our lives, by learning to love boldly and humbly lay aside our own ambitions, by praying continually with all kinds of prayers and petitions we ARE changing the world. Each prayer and petition bring God’s Kingdom a little closer. Each act of kindness and love brings Jesus more clearly into view. Each healed spirit heals the world. “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” Romans 8:37
It isn’t magic, but it is magical. Love heals and restores and renews and brings hope in places only prayer can reach. So, resolve to make love your calling-card wherever you go this year. Sprinkle it everywhere, put it on everything, send it in letters, send it in texts, send it in prayers! Our amount of time is small, but our impact doesn’t have to be.
With warm, loving prayers,