“The Peace of Christ Be With You”
I extend my joyful and heartfelt greetings of a happy New Year to all God’s people, especially to the faithful of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
My first celebration of Christmas in this Beehive State has been filled with excitement. The celebration of the birthday of Jesus Christ, Our Savior, brought so much peace and happiness. The colorful expression of the faith of this community came alive in the diverse religious celebrations such as the diocesan Advent retreats for adults and youth, parish Reconciliation services, Filipino Simbang Gabi and the Posadas of the Latino community, to name a few. Other cultural celebrations like the Choir of the Cathedral of the Madeleine’s Christmas concerts and similar presentations in schools, concert halls and theaters all expressed the beauty and richness of the spirit of unity and solidarity of the people of Utah in celebrating the joy of this special holiday.
My first pastoral visits throughout the diocese to the various parishes, missions, schools and diocesan ministries were truly inspiring. I personally experienced the warm hospitality, the strong and vibrant faith of God’s faithful, the zeal of our priests in spite of the many challenges they face in exercising their pastoral ministry, and the dedication of parish leaders, diocesan and Catholic school staff. The local Church of the Diocese of Salt Lake City in Utah is alive! This gives us much confidence in living and celebrating our faith as missionary disciples of Christ.
The New Year gives me a great feeling of peace and abiding hope as we continue our spiritual journey and the Church’s mission of evangelization. Christ came into our world to dispel the darkness of sin and to bring the elusive peace the world cannot give but that can only be found in God. He called all His followers to be instruments of peace. Living and working for universal peace is not an option but a commitment and a manifestation of our faith.
Since 1968, on the feast day of the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, the Catholic Church has dedicated Jan. 1 as the World Day of Peace. The late Pope Paul VI reminded us of this sacred duty when he said, “The world must be educated to love peace, to build it up and defend it.” This is a fitting way to welcome the New Year, being mindful of the pope’s yearly message and ardent call to work for peace in our broken world, which is immersed in a culture of violence and division that brings tremendous suffering to humankind.
Pope Francis, in carrying out this tradition, provides us the theme for the 2018 annual World Day of Peace: “Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace.” His message is an invitation and exhortation for us to be faithful to our Christian responsibility by responding to the signs and needs of our times. In the past decades, the world has witnessed a massive global migration and dislocation of millions of people due to wars, poverty, natural calamities and injustices. They flee their motherland to find a new home where they can have a decent life, to live in freedom and to search for peace. Our Holy Father asks us to focus on the sad plight of the migrants and refugees of today, reminding us of the very experience of Joseph and Mary, carrying in her womb Jesus, the promised Savior, searching for a place to stay.
For peace to reign in our world we have to work for justice. We are a Church at the service of peace. Our love for God challenges us to gaze on our brothers and sisters with the love, compassion and mercy of Christ. Our faith in Christ urges us to open and provide a place for them in our hearts, in our community and in society. Let us then establish rightful and respectful relationships with God and with one another and renew our commitment to build a civilization of love and mercy instead of a society that promotes the desecration of the sanctity of life and the degradation of the human dignity of every person. The New Year offers us a new beginning of a peaceful world. Share God’s gift of peace. Love like Christ and be Christ to one another. Blessings of a New Year filled with peace!