Light of the World

In the familiar New Year’s World Day of Prayer for Peace hymn, we sing:
Let there be peace on earth…and let it begin with me.
 
For a moment, let’s picture ourselves living on the shores of a great lake. Around the waters are many homes as well as factories and institutions. The lake is not only beautiful, but fresh, clear and clean. 
 
Now, suppose one of those factories begins to discharge its pollution into the waters of the lake. We, the residents, come together to save and protect our lake and stop the process of pollution.
 
Suppose now that you notice your neighbor disposing of garbage and sewage into the lake. It’s not much, but it’s there. As time passes, other residents begin to do the same thing. Because the amounts are small, no one notices. And then, almost suddenly, the amount of human waste pouring into the beautiful lake begins to have the same effect as the factory pollution that was stopped only a short time before. Now the residents of the lake community look at one another and realize that it’s no longer them (the evil factory), but us (the residents) who are to blame.
 
This may seem a familiar story about ecology or care of the earth. But it is not. It is a story about peace.
 
Much attention is paid to the actions of nations and kings and corporations. We decry wars, bombs and violence. We demand peace, peace on earth.  
 
Most of us remain blind, however, to the devastating havoc wreaked on world peace by the ordinary actions of common people. How often have we heard at church the call to be charitable in the parking lot and on the road? We laugh. How often have we not been reminded that our behavior contributes as much to the death of the planet as do the wars in Syria and Yemen and the drug cartels in Guatemala and Mexico? 
 
Every small action against peace effectively destroys the peace of the world.
 
In our own nation, many have abandoned our national quest for peace and prosperity for all in favor of words and actions which are obsessively violent. We are losing the ability to disagree and walk the journey together. Instead, we opt for division and discord. In lieu of the profoundly Christian vocation to be a light in the darkness, we choose to behave like pouting children who don’t get our way.
 
In our actions and our prayers, we choose to nourish peace or to slowly pollute it to death. Have we forgotten that Peace is Jesus’ first and lasting gift to us and, through us, to the world?