Once I ran for public office. Actually, it was more like a popularity contest. I was elected the most pessimistic member of the Torrington High School Class of 1989. I won by a large margin. My lone opponent, J.W., was confident he could win, and he campaigned aggressively throughout the halls of THS on a platform that he was more cynical than I was but his optimism cost him the election.
At eighteen, what was there to fear? ‘The future was open.’ That was what scared me: Nobody, but nobody, can recall the days that are to come. Fear is the absence of faith and without it the child of God has no peace. Of this I am positive: No God, no peace. But to know God is to know peace by relying upon his assurances.
New Year’s Day—on which we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God—is a time when even the most pessimistic people can feel assured. We hope that the New Year will usher in more triumphant times and that the Lord will grant our dreams, endeavors, and plans. As Christians, we achieve peace by believing that what was promised by the Spirit of God is true. We seek a blessing—Christ’s peace—as did Mary, the Apostles, and all God’s children who lived in times past. Thanks to Mary’s Son, we can confidently call God Abba, “Father,” a gift gained from his divine blessing through Jesus Christ the Missionary of peace.
This natural optimism, borne by the Spirit of God in our hearts, impelled the Catholic Church in 1968 to establish January 1 as the World Day of Peace.
At this moment hinged between 2010 and 2011 we look forward prayerfully to the acceptance of the gift of peace that comes from God through Jesus, the Savior of humanity through whom the Father’s promise of salvation is fulfilled.
Such a gift makes us confident because we know God is near. The blessing that God taught Moses (expressed in the Book of Numbers) is part of the gift sent by the Spirit of God to assure turbulent hearts. It is very simple: “May the Lord look upon you and give you peace” (6:26). This tranquil prayer was prayed by the Levitical priests as a blessing for the Israelites. The benediction is a sign of divine pleasure; it comes through the priest directly from the Lord.
Today, in addition to the Word Day of Peace, the Church celebrates in a special way the motherhood of Mary, the Queen of Peace. This is no coincidence—she is the mother of us all. Pope Benedict XVI explains in his message for World Day of Peace that the family, as patterned on Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is the “school of freedom and peace,” for individuals and for society.
On Christmas, Jesus, “born of a woman, born under the law,” (Galatians 4:4b) himself became a member of the human family. With confidence in humanity, the peace of which is found in surrender to God’s design, Christ entrusted himself to his mother’s care, and it was through him that God redeems the human race—by becoming one of us, and lifting us from the fearful state of sin into communion with our Creator whom we are privileged to call “Father.”
I am no longer the pessimist I used to be. Because I know that this great hope we can look forward to every year is true. In Christ, therefore, many nations, races, and communities of people throughout the world, throughout history, are truly blessed, refashioned into one family, not only linked by flesh and blood but by something much stronger: God’s benediction. Such a spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write in his Epistle to the Galatians, that we, through Jesus, “born of a woman,” might grow secure in the heritage we receive as ‘adopted children of God.’
This happens right now, for all time. “The fullness of time” is Paul’s way of saying the right moment—God’s time—when salvation happened. He brought to fulfillment the Messianic expectation by sending Christ into the world as a missionary, an envoy, chosen and sent by God to bring peace and security to us all.
Paul himself received his divine commission directly from the Lord (cf Acts 9:6). At the beginning of his Epistle to the Galatians, he relates to his readers, by way of an assertion of his authority as an apostle, that he received his calling supernaturally, like Jeremiah and Isaiah the prophets. Referring to Jesus as God’s Son establishes Jesus’s divine nature; acknowledging that he was “born of a woman” reminds us that he is human. Jesus is truly God and truly Man. “At the time appointed by God, the only Son of the Father, the eternal Word … became incarnate; without losing his divine nature he has assumed human nature” (CCC No. 479). He is one of us.
Paul’s point to the Galatians then and to us here and now is this: We are one Church, share one Gospel, and God has given us his only Son. Through him we receive the spiritual inheritance promised long ago by the prophets sent to proclaim a future full of hope. We did not know of this Spirit of God before Christmas Day. Rather, it is the Christmas gift from the Father that keeps on giving well into the New Year and beyond as we wait for the Second Coming. This gift from him is the assurance of peace to strengthen our hearts and dispel fear of the uncertainty of the days unseen, for we are the adopted children under the Law of new freedom and so we have the right to call on Abba, “Father.”
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.