Sunday Scripture readings, Jan. 1, 2023: Peace

Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

1) Nm 6:22-27
Psalm 67:2-3, 5-6, 8
2) Gal 4:4-7
Gospel: Lk 2:16-21

Recently after the liturgy, a man asked our pastor about the dismissal at the end of Mass, “Go in peace.” The man wanted to know, “What is this peace?”

Today’s reading speaks about — in a way, delivers — peace. God tells Moses how Israelite priests are to bless the people. They should say, “The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!” (Nm 6:24-26).

As I read these words, the man’s question goes through my mind.

In the past 24 hours I have visited a friend who is going through a divorce, I have read about teens dying of drug overdoses and about the suffering a war between the U.S. and China could bring, and I am distraught about a situation in my life. I have to wonder, “What is this peace?”

Perhaps the question crosses your mind also.

This peace certainly isn’t something that straightens out every unpeaceful, ugly tangle. My friend’s pain isn’t going to go away anytime soon. The parents’ grief will never go away. God’s peace isn’t an anesthetic.

Sometimes, alas, wars happen. God’s peace doesn’t prevent human violence. There is no guarantee that the distressing situation I’m facing will have a happy ending.

It seems to me that the peace of God’s blessing lies in this: God has brought us to himself and he is leading us to himself. Since God is beyond our understanding, this peace is deeply mysterious. It is also deeply personal. In fact, we could say it is a Person. The peace is the “God of peace” (1 Thes 5:23).

This peace has a future aspect. God will bring us to himself. Sometimes that hope feels like the more important part to cling to. Other times, the present aspect feels more meaningful. With me, with my friend, with all of us in this tangled world, God is present. He is working for the good in us and through us (Rom 8:28).

In his Son, whose birth we are celebrating, God has become a permanent participant in the human drama. Through his Son, God has made us his sons and daughters, who, inspired by his Spirit within us, can call him Father (“Abba!” — meaning “Dad!” — St. Paul assures us in Rom 8:15). There is peace.

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Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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