Christmas Pastoral Letter 2002

Glory to God in the Highest

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to men who enjoy his favour.” (Luke 2:14)

Every year the angels bring this message to all the corners of the world where Christmas is celebrated. Peace is the most cherished treasure everybody seeks to defend if possessed, or search for if still beyond their grasp. Too many people are agonising under the threat of war or terrorism, too many innocent people, especially children, the elderly and women, are suffering from the consequences of war, famine, disease, embargo, loss of their homes and homelands.

When the media put before our eyes such daily tragedies let us pray for peace, God’s most precious gift. Peace is not only a promised gift but is also a duty, a mission to be achieved. At the end of his prayer, Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, asked the Lord to “guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79). Yes, it is a way, it is a journey and it is a construction, the foundation of which is built on justice and love.

An unjust situation made stable by oppressive structures is not peace bur a state of violence. The prophets of God try to awaken the conscience of people by destroying false peace in order to correct an unjust situation.

How does one create peace? You cannot deny desperate people their right of self-defence. Sometimes force seems to be the only way to free oneself from slavery. But it is also dangerous. Violence tends to create violence and may grow out of control, perhaps creating new injustices.

We Christians prefer to preach the truth that is the solid foundation of a just peace and lasting peace. “Peace to men who enjoy his favour.” Every human being enjoys the favour of God. Everyone is precious in his eyes because we are all his children and we are brothers and sisters in the family of God. And here love comes into play, where simple justice acknowledges its own limitations. In the family nobody is considered a burden, nobody is declared a failure, the weak are entitled to more love: children, the elderly, the sick and the prodigal son.

We are living through a difficult time in our history. Prosperity seems to be a distant memory. Let us not surrender to the situation, but work together to improve it. There is a wise saying: “By sharing our difficulties they become smaller, by sharing our joy, it grows.” Try it, and give peace a chance!

May the Lord grant you grace and peace this Christmas season!

+ Joseph Zen, SDB
Bishop of Hong Kong

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