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Catholic Voice
   January 5, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

'Peace on Earth' begins with 'Peace in me'


Most Rev.
Michael C. Barber, SJ

With all the evil going on in the world this season, one can be tempted to despair: beheadings in the Middle East, kidnapping of college kids and their execution in Mexico, the murder of two New York police officers in cold blood as they sat in their patrol car, the wanton destruction and vandalism of stores and businesses in our own city of Oakland. Even our cathedral was not spared.

Yet Isaiah prophesied: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light." For those who love and follow Christ, the way is bright, joyful and peaceful."

On Christmas this year, 2014, we celebrate one of the finest examples of the in-breaking of Christ's light: "The Great Christmas Truce of 1914." German and British soldiers were dug-in for miles in trenches. Snipers and poison gas took their toll. Yet on Christmas Day, soldiers on opposing sides put up signs reading "Merry Christmas" on them. Then men from each side got up, unarmed and walked toward each other in no man's land. They shook hands, traded gifts, sang carols, ate and prayed together. They even played soccer with improvised balls.

The truce spread for hundreds of miles and lasted up to New Year's Day. When Pope Benedict XV heard about it, he asked England and Germany to extend the truce indefinitely. It took the threats of senior officers to force the men back into the trenches to resume the war.

But look what common love and regard for Christ's birth accomplished. It is still possible.

 
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In our liturgical calendar the Feast of the Holy Family follows on the Sunday after Christmas. I am one who believes that before there can be peace "in the world" there has to be peace "inside me" and then "inside my family." Yes you say, "But my sister did something really awful to me some years ago that really hurt." Or, "My brother does not help support our aging parents, I have to do it all by myself." Hurt is real. Pain is real.

Yet so is Christ's power to heal. When Christ went through his passion and death, he absorbed all the pain caused by our sins. Often when I go to the hospital to anoint a dying grandmother, I find the family — usually grown adult children — around the bed. Mother is usually unconscious. I ask the family to join hands and pray with me. I invite them, in their hearts, to forgive their mother for any sins she may have committed against them . . . and ask them to forgive any sins or hurts they may have inflicted on their mother. Many a family have been reconciled on their mother's deathbed.

Christ's overpowering love and sacrifice enable us to do the same.

I was impressed by how many parishes in our diocese held Reconciliation Services before Christmas — and how many people took advantage of them.

I heard confessions at one of these services in Pleasanton. But I knew I could not be a sign of reconciliation to others without going to confession myself first.

"His name will be called Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 6)

Be the peace you want to see in the world.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you!

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