Peace I Leave You
Peace. The word thrills us. Every human heart desires it passionately. Yet there is so little of it in the world. The news is full of its opposite. It seems the world in going to hell on a fast track. It seems to be tottering on the edge of an abyss, battered by mindless, amoral, hatred, violence and destruction. Much of the violence being perpetrated is being done in the name of things like nationalism. Worse yet, too much of it is done in the name of God. Evil appears to have the upper hand. For the human heart is often led astray by passions dressed up as ultimate and eternal truths. How many times do those who perpetrate violence, on a large scale, or in the privacy of the home, tell us that they are doing it out of some disordered concept of love? The human mind is capable of twisting even the most beautiful of ideals, yes, even love and truth, rationalizing them away with cleverly dressed up lies. Madness abounds. But then, it always has. It is one of the products of The Fall.
The world cannot offer us the peace we desire and need. It has promised peace in every age, and in every age it has broken its promises to us. There is only One who can promise the peace we desire and he is speaking to us in this passage. Jesus offers a peace to us that the world cannot give. His ʺShalom,ʺ is the gift of salvation. His peace is the fullness of redemption, in the forgiveness of our sins–forever. The world offers peace through finite powers like political systems, weaponry, or economics. Jesus offers us a peace that can only come from the transcendent, unlimited power of unconditional love. That is the power that he brought into the world in his person. And that power is still with us in his Holy Spirit. When we recognize this and believe in it; when we decide in the depths of our souls to live in accord with it, in imitation of Christ, even though we may suffer for doing so in this tortured world, we can be at peace for, ʺIf you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.ʺ (John 15: 10)
As Christians, we know this, but we also know how hard it is to love this well. Still, we also know that with God we can do more than we could ever imagine. It is, in the end, a matter of faith. If we truly believe, even though we sometimes fail, we know that forgiveness and redemption are ours because, ʺGod so loved the world that he sent his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but might have eternal life.ʺ (John 3: 16) It is in this faith, indeed, in this truth, that we have a peace that surpasses understanding. It is because of God’s love for the world that, even though the world seems ugly with sin and violence, we can still love it and care for it. Because of Jesus we can love even those who persecute us, even those who violate our innocence, or our human rights, enough to help redeem them through our God-inspired compassion and forgiveness.
It is obvious that there is not one of us who can do this alone. We cannot do any of this without God and the peace that he can bring into our wounded hearts. This is why we pray. This is why we go humbly to the Eucharist to welcome his entrance into our hearts, minds and souls. When we do this, he fills us with that peace we desire so much. He is the peace we need. The world can offer nothing at all like it. Indeed, there is nothing the world needs more that Jesus and the peace only he can bring. He tells us, ʺDo not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.ʺ Unlike the world, his promise was, is, and always will be kept. It is through our submission to his love in our individual hearts, and our willingness to live out of it, that that Christ’s peace enters the world in small, but potent ways. In him there is no darkness, only joy and peace. Amen.