Patriarch Fouad Twal gave the following homily for the World Day of Peace and the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God on January 1, 2016, at the Co-Cathedral of the Latin Patriarchate.
Dear Priests, Religious Men and Women
Today, we celebrate the first day of the new year under the protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God.
It is always in the mystery of Christmas, "God with us", that we meditate and pray, as we end one year and begin a new time in our life, which is a step towards a definitive personal and communal encounter with the Lord.
God is with us and He holds to this presence. It is this very Presence that sustains our hope and joy in the midst of our difficulties and pain. We unite ourselves to the suffering of all the inhabitants of this land, Palestinians and Israelis, and also with the victims of violence. In all these, we turn to the Virgin Mary and with her, "we ponder all these things in our hearts," though unable to comprehend the meaning and reasons for all these tribulations in the mystery of God's providence and love for His creation.
Today, the first of the year, is also the feast of this Co-Cathedral dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus and the annual feast of the Patriarchate and our Diocese. I convey to all of you my best wishes and I ask you to accompany us with your prayers. May every one continue to be an instrument of salvation for oneself, for one another, for the faithful entrusted to each one of us and for all the faithful of the countries under our Diocese: Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Cyprus.
From December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016, we celebrate the Year of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. In this regard, the Holy Father wrote in the Bull of Indiction that "Jesus Christ is the face of the Father's mercy. These words sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth reaching its culmination in him. The father, "rich in mercy" (Eph 2:4) after having revealed his name to Moses as "a God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Ex 34: 6) has never ceased to show, in various ways throughout history, his divine nature. In the "fullness of time" (Gal 4:4), when everything had been arranged according to his plan of salvation, he sent his only Son into the world, born of the Virgin Mary, to reveal his love for us in a definitive way. Whoever sees Jesus sees the Father (cf. Jn 14:9). Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God." (Misericordiae Vultus #1)
In a world that is increasingly dehumanizing and moving towards ruthlessness, violence and oppression, the Christian vocation is to witness to the mercy of God, in collaboration with men and women of good will.
The seed of mercy is found in all religions, and we are all responsible to grow it in our personal and public life. Consequently, we will witness to a better world, ruled by justice, peace, tenderness, love and mutual respect. We invite all our faithful, who have any influence and power in the political, economic, cultural, social or family life, to foster a life of mercy that becomes a common culture pervading the world that belongs to us.
In the coming year, we will continue to pray for peace in our land, that Israelis and Palestinians lay aside the ways of violence and set out on the path of peace. In due time, the Lord will bless us with peace and reconciliation.
As we begin a new year, the global situation is disastrous. I would like to say that despite everything tragic, "Let us not allow evil to overcome us but conquer evil with good" (cf. Rm 12.21), with the generosity and forgiveness
"Evil is not some impersonal, deterministic force...It is the result of human freedom... Evil always has a name and a face: the name and face of those men and women who freely choose it. At its deepest level, evil is a tragic rejection of the demands of love... Moral good on the other hand is born of love, shows itself as love and directed towards love. All this is particularly evident to Christians... The inner logic of Christian love...leads to the love of one's enemies: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink "(Rm 12:20). (Pope John Paul II, 2005 World Day of Peace Message, #2)
The first commandment of the Gospel in this Year of Mercy compels us to commit ourselves always and responsibly, to ensure that the life of individuals and peoples is respected and upheld. One cannot forcefully denounce the social and political evils afflicting the world, it can only condemn the sale of weapons of destruction and war.
In this context, how can we not think of Iraq and Syria, where raging conflicts continue to claim innocent victims? How can we not talk about the dangerous situation in the Land of Jesus, where we fail to reconnect in truth, justice and mutual understanding, shattered by conflicts and sustained by unrelenting daily attacks and bombings in revenge?
And what about the tragic phenomenon of terrorist violence, which seems to push the world toward a future of fear and anguish? It is true, we are afraid, everyone is fearful and the weapons we amass for defense are worthless!
"To attain the good of peace, there must be a clear and conscious acknowledgement that violence is an unacceptable evil and that it never solves problems. Violence is a lie, for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity. Violence destroys what it claims to defend: the dignity, life, freedom of human beings. What is needed is a great effort to form consciences and to educate the younger generation to goodness." (Pope John Paul II, 2005 World Day of Peace Message, #4)
During this new year, we continue to pray for political leaders, and we share with all the people of this land, their joys and their sorrows. We ask the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, to sustain us in our hope and perseverance. May she guide us in our prayers and reflections in this home where God is among us.
For this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we developed a program of prayers, liturgical celebrations and pilgrimages, I hope that you are aware of this initiative and that you will participate faithfully. Thank you in advance for your collaboration and your friendship.
I thank you once again for the beautiful testimony of your life, your solidarity and your prayers.
I wish you all a Happy New Year full of joy and good health. Amen.
† Fouad Twal, Patriarch