By REV. LUNA L. DINGAYAN
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased.” — Luke 2:14
War on Terror
According to the Lukan Gospel, Jesus was born when Augustus was the emperor of the Roman Empire and Quirinius was the governor of Syria (Lk.2:1-2). In other words, Jesus was born when Palestine was under Roman colonization and domination. Emperor Augustus introduced a foreign policy that looks like an ancient version of a “war on terror” popularly known as Pax Romana (Roman Peace), wherein the Roman Empire tried to maintain “peace and order” and to quell every form of rebellion throughout its territory by the use of military force, state terrorism, and political killings.
This was the context in which Jesus Christ our Lord was born. It was a time when people, especially the poor and marginalized, like the shepherds of the fields, were desperately longing for genuine and lasting peace. This was clearly shown in the song sung by the angels at Jesus’ birth as witnessed by the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased!” (Lk.2:14).
Now, we might be wondering why this message of the angelic song was addressed particularly to the shepherds, and not to the powers-that-be. The shepherds at that time were among the poorest of the poor in Israelite society. They were at the bottom of a social hierarchy. They were considered among the social and religious outcasts simply because they could not observe all the details of ceremonial laws. Usually, it is those at the bottom that carry the burdens of an oppressive society. And it is to them that God usually speaks the message of hope.
Today’s modern day war on terror has coined the phrase collateral damages, referring to those who are victimized and sacrificed in the process. The shepherds of the fields were the collateral damages of Pax Romana, in the same manner that the basic masses and militant groups today are the collateral damages of Pax Gloria and Pax Americana.
The so-called collateral damages are the ones longing for genuine and lasting peace. They are “those whom he (God) is pleased” (v.14). God is pleased with them, although the world and the powers-that-be despise them, because poor and powerless as they are, they still remain faithful to God’s reign of justice and righteousness without which any genuine and lasting peace could not be experienced. They persistently continue to struggle with hope for God’s reign of peace even in the midst of hopelessness.
The child born in the manger who became the savior of the world was regarded from the Old Testament prophecy as the “Prince of Peace”(Is. 9:6). Yet, Jesus said to his disciples later on that he came not to bring peace, but division (Lk. 12:50). Indeed, Pax Romana tries to unite the whole world under Roman domination, in the same manner that today’s Pax Americana and Pax Gloria tries to unite the whole world under globalization. This is the peace that the world gives.
But Pax Christi (Christ’s Peace) divides the whole world between the just and the unjust, between the righteous and the unrighteous, and brings them all together under God’s redeeming and renewing love.
Christ’s peace, therefore, is not like the peace that the world gives, maintained by war on terror and political killings. Christ’s peace is founded on justice and righteousness. As the UCCP Bishops said in one of their statements: “Genuine peace comes when justice is served. For as long as peasants remain landless, for as long as laborers do not receive just wages, for as long as we are politically and economically dominated by foreign nations, for as long as we channel more money to the military than to basic social services, for as long as the causes of social unrest,” and may I add political killings, “remain untouched, there will be no peace.”
May the peace of Christ that surpasses all human understanding, and which the world cannot give, be upon us all. Merry Christmas! #