John’s Gospel contains the words of Jesus that are echoed in every Mass, “Peace I leave you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.”
We all desire peace in our lives, peace in our families, peace in our communities, peace in our work and peace among peoples and nations, but is Jesus’ gift of peace to us different from the peace we find in the world?
How do we define peace? Is it an absence of conflict, an absence of war, an absence of hate, jealousy and fear?
Man’s peace always seems to be a negotiated peace; a détente – which is defined as a relaxation of strained relations. It is a peace that relies on the promises of good behavior among opposing parties; parties with conflicting interests. It is an absence of conflict that prevails with a caveat – it is a peace with the Sword of Damocles hanging over it. It is a peace held together by threat of consequence for not keeping the peace.
In man’s peace we live in fear – fear of the slightest imbalance of power that can shatter the peace. We live in fear that ever changing conditions or needs - will throw our world into chaos – destroying man’s peace – plunging us into disharmony and disorder; threatening our safety and well-being.
This is not the peace of Christ, the peace of God’s Kingdom. Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of love and justice. The peace of Christ is not the absence of discord, but the presence of a living love: a love that puts the needs of others ahead of our own. It is a love that opens our hearts to the giving of ourselves for the other. It is a peace of sacrifice – a peace that brings justice into our lives with one another.
Like Jesus, we live in peace when we surrender ourselves to God’s love; emptying ourselves of all that keeps us from loving the other. Our peace and our love for the other is the same love we have for ourselves, the love Jesus has for each one of us.
We are measured by our love for the other, by the peace we give to the other, by the justice that reigns in our hearts for the other. This peace, love and justice are not abstract concepts, hypothetical ideas or fanciful theories, but life giving practices.
We are called to live in the peace of Christ, live with the love of the Father and bring God’s justice into the world. This is the measure of us – we who are called Christians – by these things - we are known as followers of the Way.
God knows and understands us completely. He knows this is a difficult, - but not impossible - task for his children: to live in peace and love and justice with one another. Jesus promises us that the Father will send His Spirit to help and guide us. His Spirit is a reminder and a teacher of the words Jesus spoke to us, the words of the Father – the words of love, peace and justice. These are words we hear - that bring us into love, the love of Christ, the love of the Father: the words that bring us into the peace of God’s kingdom. These are the words of Life.
Any other words we hear – words that fail to speak of God’s unconditional love - are not the words of Jesus. Words used to justify any actions that fail to love, - that fail to give peace, - that fail to bring justice - are not words of love – are not words of life. Words that diminish the other, that bring harm to the other, are words empty of love, peace or justice. These are the words of the evil one – the one who would rob us of God’s love; separating us from His kingdom.
Sadly, these are the words we hear too often in the world - words that keep us from loving with the love of Jesus and living in peace with all our brothers and sisters –
- words of fear,
- words of suspicion,
- words of doubt
- words of jealousy
- words of hate,
words that lead us away from the love we are called to have for one another.
Jesus gives us his peace and speaks to us only the words we need to hear, - words of peace, love, justice and life. His is the voice of the Good Shepherd – leading his flock into the peace of God’s Kingdom where we will live forever and ever.
Deacon Don Ron