Reflecting on Pope Benedict's Message for World Day of Peace: Man Is Made For The Peace Which Is God's Gift
All the desires of the mysterious and thirsty human heart, which include lasting interior peace and perfect happiness, are attained in the possession of God, whose unsurpassable and indescribable gifts are freely given to those who love him.
Pope Benedict XVI notes that God has always been, and ever will be, completely on your side. The Father created you to receive the peace that is God's gift; this peace is true, authentic, fulfilling and everlasting, since its origin is God himself. It is not merely a natural peace, but a supernatural peace that is enjoyed in sharing in God's own divine life.
Drawing his inspiration from the words of Jesus Christ, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" (Mt 5:9), the Pope shared many aspects of the crucial mission and efforts of peacemaking in the world today, which is a truly human enterprise corresponding to man's irrepressible desire for peace, ranging from those problematic elements in society and the world that threaten peace and the well-being of the human community, to the primary means of attaining true and lasting peace: an authentic, self-giving relationship with the Person of Jesus Christ, who is himself the "Prince of Peace" (Is 9:6), and the light of humanity (cf. Jn 1:4).
Pope Benedict observed that man's unceasing desire for peace corresponds to his longing for happiness, something originating in the need for the Creator and merciful Father, who is the source of life and all good things for which man hopes. Man is called to peace, in fact, created for it.
"All the same, the many different efforts at peacemaking which abound in our world testify to mankind's innate vocation to peace," said Pope Benedict. "In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy and successful human life. In other words, the desire for peace corresponds to a fundamental moral principle, namely, the duty and right to an integral social and communitarian development, which is part of God's plan for mankind. Man is made for the peace which is God's gift" (1 § 5).
That one short sentence bears repeating: "Man is made for the peace which is God's gift." I would like to reflect a moment on the truth claim that peace is a gift from God. While Pope Benedict speaks in his message of both interior and exterior peace, permit me to here focus on interior peace. What is this peace and what does it mean for us? How do we access/receive this gift?
Let's begin with the quest for peace, which is a universally human enterprise since all men desire peace and the happiness it brings. There are many today who misunderstand what interior peace really is and where to find it, thus they look for it in the wrong ways and in the wrong places.
Many often believe interior peace is achieved through situating themselves within particular and attractive life circumstances. That is, if they can have the right career, attain a level of financial security, live in a pleasant part of the world, remove stressors from their life, and so forth, they will then know and enjoy peace. It is the quest to find and possess authentic and lasting interior peace through created objects, which is a futile endeavor. It is a most unproductive human labor. Although people often seek peace through such means, they one day realize their efforts are much like trying to touch a mirage in the desert: the faster one walks toward it, the more rapidly it recedes. Even though the heights of worldly success should be acquired, peace remains elusive.
Others believe true and lasting interior peace is something attained through a type of mental focus. The notion is, it can be accessed through the powers of human nature if one will but learn the proper techniques. Breathing exercises, clearing the mind, regular physical exertion, and mental exercises such as training the mind to think primarily in positive ways, are some of the techniques people use in an attempt to gain access to interior peace. While it is true that these methods have their value, they are incapable of producing within us the spiritual peace each and every one of us craves in the depths of our hearts. Regardless of the techniques used and the frequency with which they are practiced, we one day realize with stark clarity that, perhaps even with more than just a tinge of sadness, they remain insufficient.
Clearly, true and authentic and lasting interior peace is something that is given to us; we cannot, hard as we might try, forcibly take it for ourselves. It is not, then, something we can attain solely with the powers of our human nature. Although it is possible to be naturally happy for a time and therefore enjoy a certain level of peace, the moment some stressor rears its head, anxiety sets in, and the effort to reacquire peace must begin all over ...
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