It’s Christmas again, the time of year when we are promised peace.
It’s needed as we deal with an ongoing pandemic, economic inflation, natural disasters due to climate change and resulting uncertainties in many areas of our lives.
St. Luke’s Gospel once promised peace to people of good will. Somehow, that got changed to “peace and good will to all.”
I prefer the Biblical version because I’d like to think that exemplifying good will is important and a prerequisite to peace in life.
An old 1863 Longfellow poem, “Christmas Bells,” appears to be the source of the second thought which has infiltrated our culture.
I like to think about people of good will. They are the ones whose feelings are kind, supportive and approving, who demonstrate benevolent interest in others and who choose to act on that interest in small ways as well as large.
I know people like that, and they deserve both peace and contentment.
They are the neighbors, friends and family who have helped me navigate a maze of health issues during the past months. I call them “saints,” and I don’t do that lightly.
All religious bodies honor in some way those who exemplify their own moral teachings. My saints do the same.
They are decent, giving, reliable and yet all too human. They remind me of some of the saints of the church.
The saints of the past and my saints today have an added dimension. They care, are compassionate and they do good. They live among us, and I am grateful.
When I think of saints past, I’m not drawn so much to the famous like Paul and Joan of Arc; instead, I think of others. There’s Philip Neri, whose jokes and riddles accompanied his piety. There’s Dominic, who walked the shoreline preaching to the fish when no one came to the church to hear his sermons. There’s Irish Bridget, who kept giving away food while asking the chickens, cows, trees and fields to continue to provide. There’s even Thomas the doubter who admitted and then repented his disbelief.
Like my own “helper saints,” they were flesh and blood, praying, sharing and believing. These are the “people of good will.” Humankind needs them and more of them in this increasingly nonsecular age. These are our very best, and while they earn peace, they give the rest of us hope.
I wish you all those special Christmas gifts. May you know both peace and hope in the New Year.