Dear brothers and sisters:
The Holy Father John Paul II has chosen as his theme for World Day of Peace 2005, this exhortation of St Paul in the letter to the Romans: “Do not let yourself be overcome by evil; rather, it overcomes evil with good.”
The experience of evil lies in humanity from the origins of cultures. Threatening pictorial representations, fears reflected in the oldest written works of art and narratives, always refer to evil, often regarded as a brutal and anonymous force acting in the world by unpredictable and fatal mechanisms. This can be based on the experience of what we might call cosmic evil, the one that comes from the unleashed elements of nature, which become deadly and immerse men and peoples in desolation. The Holy Father said well in recent days that the celebration of this Christmas had been overshadowed by the catastrophe that occurred in the countries of the Indian Ocean, affected by that omnidirectional wave that, with devastating centrifugal force originated at a point at the bottom of the sea shaken by a teluric shudder, becoming carrier of death and destruction for so many countries of diverse culture , for so many men, women and children of different social status and economic status, for different worlds, all achieved by the same destructive power of a maritime phenomenon of enormous strength.
We all felt really shocked at that evil that might not be so inevitable, if communications technology reached all peoples equally, but would always hit human beings, overcome by an event of nature beyond their control.
Our prayer today will also be for the victims of this cataclysm and their families, for the peoples who suffer this horrible tragedy.
It is, however, a cause for hope to see the feeling of solidarity that occurs in the world in the face of situations of extreme pain like this, but our reflection must also lead us to overcome the transitional solidarity in the face of catastrophes of any order in order to think of a solidarity founded on love that is established as a regular and lasting humanist acquisition.
In the face of evil that bursts into the lives of men, attitudes of scandal, of rebellion before the Creator that allows it, of frustration or crushing of the inevitable, or also of a serious commitment to humanity to prevent evil as much as possible, fight against it at all times and remedy its effects by solidarity founded on love can be taken.
This applies above all to moral evil, which comes not from the uncontrolled forces of nature, but from the actions and omissions of human beings themselves. These evils can be avoided in many cases, they can be prevented in the false historical premises that carry them in themselves as fatal consequences, they can be actively fought, fighting for their eradication of human events. They are the evils of war, of misery, of hunger, with its causes also bad, such as ethnic or class hatreds, the poor distribution of wealth, the economic debt of poor countries, and a whole range of injustices generating calamities, to which Pope John Paul II refers specifically in his Message for this World Day of Peace.
They are listed by the Pope not to accuse or point the finger at some personal or collective leaders of these misfortunes, but to propose once again a method of combating evil that is a generator of good, creator of viable and positive proposals, which populate the world of good concrete actions in order to development, to the well-being of men and peoples , to the education of young people and adults, to the bodily and spiritual health of the inhabitants of our planet.
But the good promoted in the social environment always comes from the desire of men and women bent on noble causes because they are animated with good thoughts and feelings. The good, however, is difficult to achieve and also of arduous conception, for usually evil is easier in its execution and appears more promptly in our thinking, as a result of our most primitive instincts. In the face of the unexpectedly inferred blow, the tendency is to react with another blow, almost without thinking about it. Good is thought two, three and many times before doing so and then encounters external obstacles that make it difficult to comply. Evil appears as the fastest and easiest solution, and often finds in the other approvals or indifference, which facilitate its execution.
For this reason the human heart, as so repeated by the Servant of God Father Felix Varela, must exercise itself in virtue, that is, that capacity to be firm and strong in positive postures and actions, striving, able to keep the spirit in a healthy tension, so as not to be unprepared by the evil that arises in ourselves, which appears as temptation , as an easy but false method. Of all the virtues that gives shape and content superior to others, the highest, is love. Because it acts in the human heart, considering this word metaphorically as the seat of man’s highest or most wicked feelings. In the Gospel Jesus warns that from the human heart come “evil thoughts, murders, adultery, fornication, thefts, false testimonies and blasphemy” (Mt 15:19). But man’s heart can be transformed by love, and from there will also come noble thoughts, heroism, the capacity for dedication and fidelity, selfless service to others, risking or giving life for others.
Changing hearts, inviting everyone to transform their interiority in the sense of goodness was just the work of Jesus of Nazareth. In his Gospel there is no moral code that defines man’s proper attitudes to every circumstance of life, his teaching is not that of an ancient or present sage who encodes and explains what lines of behavior man must follow to be prudent and good, but there is an almost one-dimensional effort in Jesus Christ : proclaim the preeminence and overwhelming force of love that transforms the human heart, beginning by bearing witness to this love in every word or gesture of your own life. Its mission is to sow this love in hearts, banish hatred, establish forgiveness as a condition for coexistence among men. His disciples will be convinced not only to have learned from their teacher what love is and how it is loved, but to have felt love. The Apostle John will put it masterfully in his First Letter: “We have seen love and believed in Him.” The Evangelists St Matthew and Luke will present to us the birth of Jesus, which we celebrate at this Christmas, as the coming of God’s love for us is incarnate love. Christmas is also the acceptance of love on the part of humanity, represented in Our Virgin Mary, is the love that brings “peace on earth for the beloved men of God”. From the cradle of Bethlehem Jesus bears witness to us the love, especially for the simple, for the humble, with whom he identifies, as the shepherds who came in the first place to worship him. Precisely, to a preferential option for the poor, in the way of Jesus, the Pope invites us in his message for this year’s World Day of Peace, thinking first and foremost of the African continent, whipped by misery and pandemics.
The entire missionary journey of Jesus on roads and villages, ascending to Jerusalem and to Calvary, will be the journey of a love accepted by the few, rejected with obcecation by others, unknown to many. And He loved us to the end of the Cross, to overcome evil on the Cross through love and thus to give his Church the certainty that He had overcome evil with love, thus proving the validity of his method, when love was stronger than death and life sprang from affront and suffering. And that is the conviction of his Church also today, evil does not have the last word, love will be the victor in history. Christians always live by this hope.
The Holy Father says in his message: “The logic of Christian love, which in the Gospel is like the beating heart of moral good, brought to its last consequences, it reaches to love for enemies: ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink’, (Rom 12:20)”.
“In the face of as many dramas as afflict the world, Christians confess with humble confidence that only God gives man and peoples the possibility of overcoming evil in order to attain good.” And the Pope continues:
“With the certainty that evil will not prevail, the Christian cultivates an undomitable hope that helps him promote justice and peace. Despite the personal and social sins that condition human action, hope always gives new impetus to commitment to justice and peace, along with a firm confidence in the possibility of building a better world.”
“No man, no woman of goodwill can be exempted from effort in the struggle to overcome evil with good. It is a struggle that is effectively fought only with the weapons of love” (So far the Holy Father).
Sowing this hope in the human heart is the mission of the Church, witnessing to love is the unique and privileged method that the Christian has in any circumstance to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There are evils to overcome everywhere, including among us in Cuba. There are hatreds that must be banished from many hearts, there is a lack of love in many unloved children, sometimes conveniently cared for by family and state, but lacking true family love. There is violence that often manifests itself in social treatment, in modes of behavior within the family, in threatening expressions and gestures. There is contempt or lack of values in many of our brothers. There may be a collective, even international, solidarity between us, but there can be a lack in people’s concrete lives that solidarity that overcomes selfishness and ambition in each other to be attentive to the other, especially the most in need. State concern for the good of citizens can lead, for many, to personal carelessness for those around us and share our daily lives. In an aging population, like ours, that may be the condition of our elders. It seems to us at times that there are already those who deal with it, we find it difficult to become aware of the difficulties, loneliness and sorrows of our neighbour. That is the field always open to Christian solidarity and love.
The Church in Cuba, through her bishops, and collecting the feelings of Christian communities and their apostolic work of recent years, has decided that 2005 will be the Year of Mission. Year in which, in the way of our Master and Lord, we want to bring to our brothers and sisters, in an ever more organized and current way, the witness of love and the proclamation of hope, which must create in us the conviction that the evils to which we have alluded, and others of a personal, family or social order, can always be overcome, that each of us has something to do to overcome evil , beginning by banishing that evil, frustrating, paralyzing feeling that nests in our hearts when faith is absent.
The mission of the Church is always to proclaim Jesus Christ, who brings with him the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace; but this proposal will not be a kind of individual comfort to simply satisfy the religious cravings of man, many religious manifestations also arise today, also here among us, where there is an evasion towards ritualism and the magical protection of divinity, which can constitute an escape from reality, certainly difficult for many, through a false door.
The Church in Cuba, fulfilling her mission, wants to lead our brothers and sisters to meet Jesus Christ, who is at the same time a commitment to man and history, to sow in it love, to fight evil with good, to populate our spirit of all that is high, noble, truly worthy, and thus make possible the transformation of our world , because without a change of heart there is also no real transformation of men’s lives to truly human levels.
In this effort to fight for the common good the Holy Father warns that “clearly restrictive conceptions of human reality transform the common good into a simple socio-economic well-being, lacking any transcendent and empty reference to its deepest raison d’etion. The common good, on the other hand, also has a transcendent dimension, because God is the ultimate end of his creatures. Moreover, Christians know that Jesus has fully enlightened the realization of the true common good of humanity. It walks towards Christ and in Him ends history: thanks to Him, through Him and through Him, every human reality can come to its full perfection in God” (So far the Holy Father).
This conviction encourages us in the work and efforts that we want to deploy in this year of the mission, which will take as a priority, above all, the formation of evangelizers, mainly of the laity, with a missionary mentality that will lead them to be witnesses of the love of Christ, capable of bringing their message of salvation to other brothers and sisters.
Welcoming the invitation made to the Church by Pope John Paul II that this be a Eucharistic Year, our mission will find its strength and projection in the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source of the mission, it is Christ present among us, making sure that his act of expiration of evil by the offering of his life, with boundless love, is always perpetuated and that, in deep communion with Him, Christians can overcome evil in us and fight for good overcomes evil in our world.
With a reference to the Eucharist the Pope concludes his message of Peace for the year 2005: “In this year dedicated to the Eucharist, ,says the Holy Father – the children of the Church must find in the Supreme Sacrament of Love the source of all communion: communion with Jesus the Redeemer and, in Him, with every human being. Thanks to the new life He has given us, we can recognize ourselves as brothers and sisters, above any difference in language, nationality, or culture. In short, by participating in The Same Bread and Chalice himself, we can feel ‘God’s family’ while contributing concretely and effectively to building a world founded on the values of justice, freedom and peace.” That’s how the Pope’s message ends.
Dear brothers and sisters:
May the Virgin Mary, whom we invoke as Mother of God on this day when the Eighth of Christmas culminates, open our hearts to love, so that in the year that begins we may accept the Holy Father’s invitation to fight evil with good, sowing love and goodness in our world, according to the pattern we have in Christ Jesus. May God grant us all this grace and a happy new year.