Mary, Mother of God, and the World Day of Peace
Each New Year’s Day, the pope issues a message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace. Fittingly, on January 1, we Catholics also celebrate a holy day of obligation, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, who is also the Queen of Peace.
Pope Francis notes that his Message for the 2016 World Day of Peace, entitled “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace,” is entrusted to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As a mother, Mary brought Christ to the world, and therefore we honor her as the Mother of God. As our spiritual mother, Mary still leads us to Jesus, and she helps us as we lead others to know and love her Son. She helps us find Christ’s peace and sow that peace in our hearts, our homes, our communities and our world.
In this Year of Mercy that opened on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Holy Father has emphasized the important role of Mary, the Mother of Mercy. Her example of faith in her Son and in God’s loving mercy can be an example for you and me, and a sign of hope and a beacon of light to our world that so desperately needs Christ’s love and peace.
“Chosen to be the Mother of the Son of God,” says Pope Francis, Mary “treasured divine mercy in her heart in perfect harmony with her Son Jesus.” Witnessing Jesus’ words of forgiveness as she stood at the foot of the Cross, “Mary attests that the mercy of the Son of God knows no bounds and extends to everyone, without exception” (Misericordiae Vultus, 24).
In a world plagued by war, terrorism and religious and ethnic persecution, as well as a “globalization of indifference” toward God, neighbor and the environment, which threatens peace, our Holy Father underscores in his peace message our mission of mercy, “With the present Jubilee of Mercy, I want to invite the Church to pray and work so that every Christian will have a humble and compassionate heart, one capable of proclaiming and witnessing to mercy. It is my hope that all of us will learn to ‘forgive and give.’”
Pope Francis adds that we can face the challenges to peace by following the example of Jesus, who “was concerned not only for men and women, but also for the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, plants and trees, all things great and small. He saw and embraced all of creation. But he did more than just see; he touched people’s lives, he spoke to them, helped them and showed kindness to those in need.” Pointing to the example of the Good Samaritan, he says that “Jesus tells us that love for others – foreigners, the sick, prisoners, the homeless, even our enemies – is the yardstick by which God will judge our actions.”
Government leaders can foster peace through positive initiatives on immigration, unemployment, homelessness, and sustainable development. But we all have important roles to play in building a culture of solidarity and mercy that brings genuine peace – individuals, families, teachers, communicators, charities, and journalists who tell the story of suffering ethnic and religious minorities.
There is something that each of us can do to bring help, hope and Christ’s mercy to people affected by war and natural disasters. “In the spirit of the Jubilee of Mercy, all of us are called to realize how indifference can manifest itself in our lives and to work concretely to improve the world around us, beginning with our families, neighbors and places of employment,” says Pope Francis.
On this first day of 2016 and throughout the New Year, we know that Mary leads us to her Son, who shows us the path to peace, now and forever. In responding to this call of our Lord, in being peacemakers and people of mercy, we can help change people’s hearts and build a better world.