We have just begun another year, and as we always do, we begin with wishes for happiness, prosperity, and peace, always hoping that the coming year will be better than the year that had just passed.
We have just celebrated the birth of a Baby some two thousand years ago, who would be known as the Prince of Peace. The angels announced the glad tidings of his birth, proclaiming “peace on earth to men of good will.” But it seems that peace has been elusive over the past millennia, the world over the centuries being wracked by wars, violence, and hatred. And in our country, even as we recalled that wondrous miracle of the first Christmas, our country continues to be held in thrall to politicking, vindictiveness, and division. Faith is mocked as being stuck in the middle ages, and efforts continue to undermine the dignity of the human person on the sacrificial altar of economic progress.
Why has our world, our economy, or national community, failed to achieve this peace that was gifted to us through the miracle of a God who out of love came down to be one of us and to teach us the way of peace? The answer it seems to me lies in the way that the other half of the angels’ message has been amended to something more secularly acceptable. The angels said, “Peace on earth to men of good will.” But the popular phrase is “good will to men” and while this is devoutly to be wished, this can really be achieved only if we fulfill the condition… that peace will come to men who are of good will.
And are we men of good will? Two millennia ago, a king did not have good will, but rather was so power-hungry that he feared the birth of someone who he thought would take away his throne from him. The desire for power, the greed to stay on the throne, the fear to be deposed – well, this continues to be the reason, even today, of those who want to perpetuate themselves in power forever.
Lest the rest of us sit on our high horses, smugly thanking God that we are righteous, that we pay our taxes, that we are not corrupt and grafters, as the Pharisee proudly claimed, well think again. Many of us are quick to condemn others, blind to the beam in our own eyes…claiming to be “white” where others are “black”, self-righteously accusing the opponent of being corrupt, a cheat, a coddler of murderers, whatever…But think again, isn’t everyone in the fray looking out for number one?
All this noise could only stop if, as was shown in that incident when Jesus, writing on the ground said, “he who is without sin should cast the first stone”. But we have our own holier than thou, self-righteous Pharisees!
A self-proclaimed sinless messiah we do not need for our country. What we need is someone competent who can steer our ship of state through the shoals of globalized economic turbulent waters. We need someone, who need not wear a halo, to lead our nation forward. And every one of us – from government officials, to politicians, to businessmen, to each citizen – must do his part.
How we long for peace! And yet, peace can really only be achieved when we become truly men of goodwill. When we recognize that we are all brothers and sisters. When we can do our job, accept our responsibilities, with honor. When we do not have to resort to muck-raking just to show that we are “better.” When we can accept each other with our differences in race, religion, age, wealth, education and skills. When we can “agree to disagree” with a smile on our faces.
Peace on earth! We can all strive for this in the little and sincere and humble ways of our daily lives. And as men of good will, we can truthfully say, with love in our hearts, “good will to men.”