Promises of peace

FI-Joe-PisaniOnce again, it’s Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace on that night 2,000 years ago when the angels appeared to the shepherds, scaring them out of their wits and proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace among men of good will!”

But where is the peace they promised? Where are those men, and women, of good will? Were the angels joking?

When I look at the daily headlines in the New York Post, I want to go back to bed and bury my head under the pillows for the rest of my day, if not the rest of my life. There is no peace. There is no good will. It’s murder, mayhem, thievery, insanity, and inhumanity.

I think of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the great American poet who during America’s darkest hour at the height of the Civil War wrote “Christmas Bells.” It was a time of personal anguish for Longfellow. Without his consent, his son had joined the Union forces and then was seriously wounded. Even worse, Longfellow’s wife had recently died in a fire.

The poem says, in part:

“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 …

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!’”

Our joy at Christmastime is diminished when we think of the unfulfilled promise of peace — peace on Earth, peace in our country, peace in our families, peace in our souls.

The author Fulton Sheen once said, “Unless souls are saved, nothing is saved; there can be no world peace unless there is soul peace. World wars are only projections of the conflicts waged inside the souls of men and women, for nothing happens in the external world that has not first happened within a soul.”

From the Middle East to America, from Congress to our city streets and our living rooms, we can see evidence of that truth. There are wars, protests, civil strife, racial tensions, political squabbles, family quarrels and inner turmoil.

It was the same Prince of Peace, whose birthday we celebrate, that said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.”

What greater purpose can there be in life than bringing peace where there is none? We have to start small. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. People change and they can change for the better.

After decades of alcoholic drinking, my father certainly understood spiritual and personal turmoil. Then, through the grace of his “Higher Power,” as he said, he got into Alcoholics Anonymous and lived sober for the last 25 years of his life. He was at peace with himself, his family and his creator as much as one man can be.

His view of other people also changed. When he had to deal with someone he clearly didn’t like or who disrupted his serenity, he remembered a lesson they taught him in AA — “I don’t have to like him, but I have to love him,” and that attitude made the world of difference. He was tolerant. He was forgiving. He was at peace.

Be a peacemaker. Do your part. Pick up the phone, mail the card, send the text message, and things will change — imperceptibly at first, but then with extraordinary momentum. Merry Christmas — and peace on Earth.

Joe Pisani may be reached at [email protected]

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