A Christmas message from Bishop Tylka
Following is the message for Christmas 2023 from Bishop Louis Tylka, Bishop of Peoria.
Each year during the holiday season, we hear many wonderful hymns and songs filled with faith, joy, and cheer. Some of the classics invite us to recall the central truth of Christmas: the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. Indeed, many of the Christmas songs that we hear played today and that continue to enjoy great popularity are explicitly religious and invite people to encounter Christ. Similarly, much of the religiously oriented music we hear beckons us to acts of charity, to good will, and to peace. If only we truly allowed these messages to permeate our world not just during the holidays, but throughout the year!
As many in the world today experience conflict and division, the hymn “Let There Be Peace on Earth” immediately comes to mind. Witnessing the ongoing conflicts across the globe — the ones that are given much attention (Ukraine, Israel, Gaza) and those less noticed (Armenia, Sudan, Guatemala) — it is easy to wonder whether peace will ever come. Looking at the ills of our own society — the challenges we face and the violence on our own streets — it is easy to conclude that peace exists nowhere. Indeed, the struggles we face in maintaining our physical and mental health as well as the challenges brought on by the experience of familial dysfunction and poverty can lead us to the conclusion that peace is a fanciful and unattainable dream.
“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” These words of the popular song should not ring hollow in our life. The work of establishing true peace is simultaneously the work of grace as well as the work of each one of us. Of course, true peace is not simply an absence of war or violence; it entails the establishment of justice. True peace — lasting peace — only comes from God. At Christmas, we celebrate the moment of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ — God who is born into our world — as the Prince of Peace. These times in which we live cry out for the establishment of God’s peace, and it is our sacred duty to be the instruments of the Prince of Peace in our world. “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”
Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen said it well when he commented:
How to find Christmas peace in a world of unrest?
You cannot find peace on the outside
but you can find peace on the inside,
by letting God do to your soul
what Mary let Him do to her body, namely,
let Christ be formed in you.
I pray for all of you this Christmas. I pray that you experience again — or perhaps for the first time — the greatest gift we have received: Jesus Christ. By allowing Christ to be formed in us, we in turn will become true bearers of God’s peace to the world.
God love you! God bless you!
+Most Reverend Louis Tylka
Bishop of Peoria