Today, I’d like to revisit that Christmas declaration by the multitude of the heavenly host:
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men! — Luke 2:14
The reason being, St. Paul speaks of God’s peace in today’s Epistle:
Christ is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. — Ephesians 2:14-16
St. Paul goes on to declare that we are neither strangers nor sojourners in the household of God — we are citizens with the Saints. Thus, when the angels cry out peace on earth, when Christ says to the Apostles after the resurrection “Peace be with you!’ and when the priest repeatedly declares during the liturgy, “Peace be with all!” this is God’s peace — the ceasing of hostility between fallen humanity and God. Christ, by becoming a man, has reached out in peace to take us up with him into the kingdom to sit at the right hand of the Father.
This doesn’t mean, however, that we cannot reject Christ’s hand, turn our back on God and reject His peace. In today’s Gospel, Christ tells the parable of the rich fool. In three short sentences he uses the words ‘I’ and ‘my’ ten times (Luke 12:16-21). This is the blueprint for rejecting God’s peace. He repeats the mistake of Adam and Eve — he tries to take control of his life away from God and without God. As with Adam and Eve, death is all that awaits him.
When Adam and Eve rejected God — they tried to be like God without God — and ate of the fruit they knew evil. They knew a world without God. They pulled all of creation with them away from God. They created a huge gulf between humanity and God. This gulf we cannot cross on our own. This is why God gave us His Son — to cross that gulf, or, in the words of St. Paul, Christ has broken down the dividing wall of hostility.
Know this, then, a life without God leads to death, to nothing. Today the rich fool says “What shall I do? I have not.” Does not the poor man also say “What shall I do? I have not”? The pursuit of riches for the sake of being rich is an unending and unachievable cycle of “What shall I do? I have not.” Just think about computers, cars, and fashion — how we are constantly told about the latest greatest thing. It never stops. It will never end — until we accept that our goal is not riches, that our goal is not the latest thing. Our goal is God.
We must be vigilant against the foolish rich man’s temptation to do without God, for claiming credit for what God has given us. Everything that we have in life —all of our successes in school, in business, at home and all of our possessions — are gifts from God. Our response to this reality is modeled in the prosphoro.
God gives us the gifts of wheat, water, yeast, salt and sugar. We take those gifts and we work with them. We create with them. We then give back what we have created to God. With all of the gifts that God gives us, our job is to use them to bring glory to Him. We do that by loving and giving — nothing is truly ours because everything we have comes from God. A simple and easy way to do this is to try and see what your gifts can do for the Church. Were you given the gift of a good voice and some musical talent? Chant and/or sing in the choir. Are you good with your hands? Help out by maintaining the Church. Do you have a lot of extra time on your hands? Volunteer. Have we, in these tough economic times, been fortunate? Use that fortune to give to those in need. Sponsor a ministry of the Church. Be creative. Look for a need. Is there something the Church isn’t doing that you could help with? Do it. Make it happen.
When we do this, we reach out and take Christ’s hand as He reaches across that gulf between us and God, across that dividing wall of hostility. We work with God. We become rich in God. We participate in God’s peace.
Peace be with all. Amen.