Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and World Day of Peace: Political action and the Kingdom of God

Posted on Jan 1, 2019

Around us, we have witnessed tragedies that we never thought could happen in our age. But also, in our land, we continue to see a slow, continuous, and no less dangerous degradation and crumbling of ties at all levels of society, of political ties and social trust. Years of failed negotiations, peace plans announced and never realized, social initiatives started and never ended, and a stagnant economy. We could go on with the litany of unresolved problems. Moreover, the conflict has become part of our system of life and our way of thinking: in movements, in the organization of any initiative; in short, in everything we do.

LATIN PATRIARCHATE OF JERUSALEM – On January 1, 2019, the Diocese of Jerusalem celebrated the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and World Day of Peace at the Co-Cathedral of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, presided over the Holy Mass alongside Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem and Palestine; Bishop William Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar in Jordan; Fr. Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land; priests from the Latin Patriarchate and the Custody of the Holy land, in presence of Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, Apostolic Nuncio to Israel and Cyprus and Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine, men and women religious, scout movement from France and the faithful.

Please find below the homily of Archbishop Pizzaballa for this occasion.

January 1, 2019

Mary, Mother of God – World Day of Peace

Political action and the Kingdom of God

Dear brothers and sisters,

We’ve come yet again to this important event: the beginning of a New Year, to contemplate of the mystery of God Who makes Himself fragile and small, to reflect on the Creator who becomes a child. Today we celebrate the Virgin Mary’s motherhood and in her that of every woman and mother. It is essential to pause in contemplating and celebrating the mystery of Mary’s motherhood and to ponder the mystery of life that passes through the love of every woman.

But today also the World Day of Peace is celebrated. Making an exception to the rule, this time, we depart a little from the readings just proclaimed and from today’s liturgical celebration, and we will try to reflect on the meaning of the World Day of Peace, keeping in mind what the Holy Father has suggested to us.

This year’s message of Peace by Pope Francis focuses on political action and the responsibility of politicians. I am not interested here in making digressions of a political nature. It is not the context, and I don’t even think they are needed. But we want to mention the link that exists between the Kingdom of God and political action.

A few days ago, at Christmas, we affirmed how the birth of the Lord in our cities, in our environments of life, must awaken within us a sort of “political passion,” and arouse responsibility for providing a cure for the city and the land we inhabit. Not to own or occupy it, but to transform it from a simple urban agglomerate in the service of private and personal interests, into an area and location of experience of communion and peace, relationship and sharing. The Lord, who was born among us, has established the beginning of the Kingdom on earth, and our cities are the place where the Christian constructs the Kingdom of God by his and her actions. Often the Kingdom is too quickly identified by theology and by us as Church life or with Christ himself. Of course, these are not excluded. The Kingdom, however, is much more. It is not a society already perfectly built, but a reality that slowly develops and will never cease to be under construction, because it subsists in the relationship between men, in their cities.

Jesus reveals the sense of the Kingdom a little at a time, through the signs He makes, His new way of speaking, and His unique style of relating, which arouses wonder in everyone, especially when He turns His attention to the little ones and the marginalized. And so, the first Christian community in Jerusalem enlarges and in a certain sense completes the meaning of the Kingdom begun by Jesus. The overcoming of linguistic and cultural frontiers (Acts 2: 1-13), and the reorganization and exchange of goods (Acts 4:34-35) are manifestations of a new model of life in the city and gradually give rise to a change in the social model of that time.

In conclusion, the Kingdom is everything that gives expression to the great Christian novelty not only on a personal but also on a social level: the dignity of the person; relationships based on freedom and civil, cultural and religious responsibility; and also, on equality, sharing, communion, and solidarity. Building the Kingdom is knowing how to renounce one’s interests because of a higher and more universal good. Building the Kingdom is succeeding in creating a sense of belonging and collectivity; stemming the forces of death and division that exist in every community. It’s to firmly commit oneself to building bonds of trust; knowing to give, always and in every circumstance, hope and desire to start again where hope is damaged. It’s to know how to involve and get involved. Building the Kingdom is to serve justice, which is the expression of the highest form of civilization and to reject any compromise that harms justice and truth. Building the Kingdom is learning to forgive and to build again on the ruins of our miseries. In a word: Peace, understood as the fruit of full and free relations. Politics, therefore, is everything that builds that Peace, defending it, regulating and organizing with those specific criteria the social life of the city.

Today we are all called to do politics in the highest sense of the word, that is, to defend peace against the dangers that always threaten it. Dangers from the various forms of selfishness, be they national or particular, of groups, of social, religious or ethnic components, of ecclesiastical or political communities. The danger of violence by those who feel powerful and invincible or those who violently react because they are desperate and unrecognized in their fundamental rights. The danger of no longer believing in relationships based on justice, dialogue and negotiation. The severe risk of not understanding that life is still possible without overpowering and special interests, and the risk to think that it is not possible to believe in the men sincerity.

In the particular context in which we find ourselves, within our diocese and around us, all this seems to be utopia and light years away from what we live.

Around us, we have witnessed tragedies that we never thought could happen in our age. But also, in our land, we continue to see a slow, continuous, and no less dangerous degradation and crumbling of ties at all levels of society, of political ties and social trust. Years of failed negotiations, peace plans announced and never realized, social initiatives started and never ended, and a stagnant economy. We could go on with the litany of unresolved problems. Moreover, the conflict has become part of our system of life and our way of thinking: in movements, in the organization of any initiative; in short, in everything we do.

These unchanging situations have long made us perhaps a bit cynical and skeptical that here in our city, Jerusalem, in the Holy Land, it’s still possible to build the Kingdom of God. Ironically, how often we say more or less ironically: “Yes, peace will come, but perhaps after the coming of the Messiah.”

If, however, we accept this attitude as part of our real way of thinking and acting and if we renounce becoming authentic politicians, that is, positive architects and builders of our city, we too would be among those who threaten peace. It’s not about doing great things. Like Jesus, we must begin with the least, in our homes and our communities, in our schools, in our religious houses, and in our relationships. We want to always believe in humans, despite the many failures. That is undoubtedly the first way to build peace.

But that is not enough. We must also speak openly and freely in defense of justice and peace and reach the hearts of the leaders of our cities and inspire in them and every citizen the desire and passion or perhaps nostalgia for the Kingdom. We must express an explicit announcement of commitment to our actions for peace.

Despite many disappointments, we must encourage those who wish to devote themselves to politics. We still need politicians, that is, people who still want to spend themselves for the life of the city, and who are capable of creating aggregation and development.

But policymakers can do very little if we all do not get seriously involved with the high politics about which we speak, to not be among those who speak about peace but have their hearts elsewhere, thus lengthening the list of those who trot out empty rhetoric.

We cannot do it alone. That’s why we are here today, to ask the Blessed Mother and Emmanuel, God-with-us, to support us. We need to turn our gaze to the child of Bethlehem, because the strength and the courage to become builders of our city, passes precisely from the contemplation of that fragile child of Bethlehem. Indeed, it is children who revive in any adult the smile and love that is often hidden in each of us and extract from us a force that we never thought we had. Every parent has experienced it.

May the child of Bethlehem, together with His Mother and ours, continue to revive in each of us, in our Church community, that love which can only give strength and courage to start again, to always build, without ever getting tired, here, in our society, the Peace of the Kingdom!

Happy New Year!

+Pierbattista