“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will”.
This is the proclamation of God given to men on Christmas Day. At this Mass for Our Country, we come together to give God glory, to strengthen ourselves through God, and through our daily lives, to realize the second part of this proclamation: “and on earth, peace to people of good will”. Strengthened by God we will be more able to build peace within ourselves, within our families, peace in our Nation. No one can build peace if he does not give glory to God in the highest while he is constructing it.
Holy Mass for the Fatherland on December 25 1983 was celebrated by Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko who delivered the sermon.
On this night of God’s birth it would suffice, instead of the homily, simply to shake hands, look deeply into each other’s eyes and embrace each other with love. To see the tears of those suffering. In our hearts, to embrace those imprisoned and their families. Hug the orphaned children, the all too soon widowed wives. Sing a Christmas carol. That would quite suffice. We could end with just that. However the day of God’s birth resounds with the proclamation of the Angel: “Glory to God in the highest and, on earth, peace to people of good will”. Because God entrusted peace to people on Christmas Day. Peace on earth. Peace of human hearts and consciences. Peace is what today humanity longs for the most.
At the Mass for our Country and for those who suffer for her the most, I have never voiced my own wisdom. I based my sermons on the Gospel and the teachings of the Primate of the Millenium, cardinal Stefan Wyszynski and Holy Father John Paul II. Today also in our contemplation of peace, I want to speak primarily with the words of the Holy Father.
Pope John XXII in His encyclical, Pacem in terries said:
Peace must be based on truth, it must be built according to the rule of justice, nourished and fulfilled with love and realized in an atmosphere of freedom. ¹
Holy Father John Paul II in His proclamation on the Day of Peace, enlarges on this truth pointed out by one of His predecessors. So, I completely hand over the voice to the Holy Father, the best son of our Nation.
“Peace must be based on truth” (John XXII), (…) A renewal of truth is necessary, if one does not want individuals, groups and nations not to doubt in the power of peace and not approve new methods of oppression. To bring truth back, means first of all, to recognize every act of force in whatever form it may appear. One must call murder by its name – murder is always murder – but political and ideological motivations, which cannot change its nature, lose their worth. (…)
To promote truth as the strength of peace means a continuous effort in this direction, not allowing lies, even to accomplish a noble cause (…) The Gospel strongly underlines the connection between lies and bloody force in these words of Christ: “Now you want to kill me, the man who told you the truth heard from God… You fulfill the deeds of your father… You have Satan for your father and want to do his wishes. He was a murderer from the beginning, he did not stay in the truth because there is not truth in him. When he lies, he speaks for himself because he is a lier, he is the father of lies” (J 8, 40-41. 44). (…) Truth is the living force of evangelical peace.²
So we have to live by the truth and then the truth “will show us the unexpected light and energy, thus opening new ways for peace in the world.”³
Peace must be erected on justice. Peace is the just dialogue in the spirit of love.
A dialogue, a true dialogue is the basic condition for peace (…) When some of the interested parties are few with ideologies which, in spite of assurance, are against human dignity and its just goals, ideologies which in the struggle see the driving energy of history, in power – the source of law, in searching for enemies – the political ABC, then the dialogue is threated and becomes fruitless, but if it still exists, it is superficial and false. (…) A peaceful solution to the problems can only be reached via sincere dialogue and a democratic adherence to freedom (…). In cases where the dialog between the government and the governed fades, social peace is threatened…and one almost arrives at a state of war.⁴
This occurs between individuals, social groups and among nations. “One must never forsake dialogue in order to gain military superiority in resolving conflicts.”⁵ Peace must be achieved according to the rules of Justice.
Which nations can honestly shape international peace if they themselves are slaves to ideology, according to which justice and peace can be achieved on the condition that those who already are considered unworthy to decide their future, must be degraded (…) You who are responsible for nations, must teach yourselves to love freedom. In order to take up a call for freedom, mere words, whether sincere, or just for show, are not enough. Here are the elementary and untouchable principals on which one must stand if he wants peace: Human problems must be considered in a human manner and not through force. Unease disputes and conflicts must be resolved by way of just negotiations, not repression. Ideological differences require confrontations in a climate of dialogue, free discussion. Undeniable human rights must be always protected. One cannot superimpose on people alternative solutions.⁶
Peace must be realized in a climate of freedom:
Without a deep and wide respect for freedom, man cannot maintain peace.(…) Freedom is disturbed when international relations are formed according to the laws of the stronger nation, or because of the position of the ruling parties, or their military or political power. Freedom of nations is disturbed when the smaller nations are forced to subjection. It is threatened when the dialogue between equal states become impossible because of economical or finical domination by the favored or stronger country. There is no true freedom, no foundation for peace where the power is gathered in one social class, one race, one group, or, when the common good is defined by the interests of one party which identifies itself with the nation (…) Man is only truly free when he cares about others having the same freedom. To be free is to live in harmony with our conscience. And here freedom of conscience and religion is the first and the vital right of a human being (…)
A people brought up on purely materialistic principles denies freedom to the individual when it subjects individual freedom to economic domination, when it chokes the spiritual creativity of man in the name of a false ideological order when, in practice, dispenses with the right of patriotism in public life.
Liberation from injustice, fear, compulsion, from suffering would serve no purpose if man remained slave deep within himself.⁷
The Christian finds strength to fight for freedom and peace when he puts his hope in God.
These are the thoughts which the Holy Father John Paul II expressed in the addresses on the Day of Freedom in the past several years.
In 1963 Polish bishops led by the late Primate wrote in their pastoral letter:
Those who have brought on earth the multitude of suffering and unhappiness, who plunged the world into the depths of wars, first of all were fighting the Gospel of Christ and His Church, because they knew that the greatest opponent of their aims is the Christian religion.⁸
Let us end today’s deliberations with the words on the Primate of the Millenium, which He spoke in His homily on Christmas 1980:
May on the horizon of this earth, the fires of war, no longer scare us, those biting vipers of machine gun barrels, the tremors of nuclear missiles. Let the ammunition stores turn into stores of bread. Let the military parades, displaying the will of defending freedom in the world, cease. Because this is not the way that calm human hearts.⁹
Let us take to heart the words of the encyclical Pacem in terries which I have quoted at the beginning: “Peace must be based on truth, erected according to the rules of justice, nourished and fulfilled by love, and realized in an atmosphere of freedom”, and also let us live our daily lives in the spirit of the Gospel which brought us the Babe born 1983 years ago in a manager in Bethlehem on Christmas Night.
As always I thank all of you for the prayers for our Country and those who suffer the most for Her. I especially thank the artists who always help us to deepen our experience of meeting with God. Personally, I want to thank all of you for your prayers and your friendship during the events of the last few days, which God set upon me and our cause. I have accepted these incidents a week ago and have not intention to return to this topic.¹⁰ Let us now accept God’s blessing for these times of creating peace in our hearts, in our families, in our nation.
¹ John XXII, Pacem in Terris in Encyclicals John XXII, Paul VI, John Paul II, Published by Pax, Warsaw 1981, p. 155.
² John Paul II, Truth, the Power of Peace. Appeal at the XIII Day of Pease 1/1/1980, “L’OR” 2/1/1980.
³ As above.
⁴John Paul II, Dialogue on Peace – a call for our times. Apeal Day on the XVI World Day of Peace 1/1/1983, “L’OR” 12/11/1982.
⁵ As above.
⁶ As above.
⁷ John Paul II, If You Want to Serve Peace –respect freedom. Appeal at L’the XIV World Day of Freedom 1/1/1981, “L’OR” 11/1980.
⁸ Episcopate of Poland pastoral letter “About Pope John XXII encyclical “Peace on Earth” 6/18/1963, see: Polish Episcopate Pastoral Letters 1945-1974, p.294.
⁹ Stefan Cardinal Wysznski, Appeal on Christmas 1980, see: Pastoral Letters of the Espiscopate of Poland 1975-1981, Editions du Dialogue, Paris 1988, vp.187.
¹⁰ A statement read by Fr. Popieluszko at St. Stanislaus Church on 12/18/1983: “With respect to what happened a few days ago and the public announcement that my house had been searched, having no other means of clarifying the truth, I feel obliged to inform you in this manner that:
– I own only one small apartment given to me by my aunt five years ago, of which the Church authorities have been informed.
– In my apartment some objects have been found, who origin is completely unknown to me, and their character in relation to my priestly activities which are known to all here present, is absolutely absurd. I consider this a provocation”.