Thursday, December 24, 2015

Peace To Men of Good Will

St. Luke Chapter 2   The Shepherds and the Angels circa 4 b.c.
8And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night watches over their flock.9And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear. 10And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: 11For, this day, is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. 12And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying:
14Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.
15And it came to pass, after the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath showed to us. 16And they came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. 17And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child. 18And all that heard, wondered; and at those things that were told them by the shepherds. 19But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

The message of the angels, "peace to men of good will" has been translated/interpreted both inclusively and exclusively; that is, it could mean peace to all or just peace to some. From a Catholic point of view, it means the latter. 

In other words, peace is conditional on righteousness. This is self-evident, and a careful reading of scripture affirms this principal that if you want inner peace, then you must pursue a life of righteousness. You'll only have inner peace if you're a good and righteous person. Bad and sinful people don't have inner peace; rather, they have inner turmoil and restlessness.

On Christmas Day 1863 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem Christmas Bells which I think so eloquently captures this concept of peace to men of good will.
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men. 
I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men. 
And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men." 
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men." 
Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

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