Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Call of the Gospel: Peace

“Peace” is a term that has many meanings, not all of which are what the Gospel offers or requires. Peace is not merely an absence of turmoil or tribulation. Jesus said that He did not come to bring that sort of peace, for the message of the Gospel will pit truth against falsehood, faith against unbelief, love against hatred, so that any type of superficial smoothing over is not true peace. Peace is something more positive, active, and profound.

First of all, we see from the beatitudes that peace is something that we are able to make. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Peace begins with justice and is fulfilled in that transcendent justice known as righteousness, that is, a right relationship with God. The fruit of peacemaking is righteousness: “The harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:18). In a world rife with war, aggression, and violence of every kind, the work and witness of “those who make peace” is needed more than ever. Recent Popes have repeatedly asserted that violence must not be used to resolve conflicts. Thus war is not a means to peace.

From the stage of world peace (which, by the way, must include more than an absence of actual war, for the seeds of new wars are always growing in the hearts of the unrighteous), we come to the need for peace on a more intimate level, that of friends, families, and communities. “Strive for peace with all men,” exhorts the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, “…that no ‘root of bitterness’ spring up and cause trouble” (12:14-15). It will be hard to preach (let alone obtain) peace among nations if we are fighting among ourselves. The peace to which the Gospel calls us is based on mutual understanding, forgiveness, and charity. We have to remember that peace is made, that is, it doesn’t happen all by itself. Peace doesn’t flow from inertia, indifference, possessiveness, self-righteousness, or ambition. There is no peace by default; power will fill a vacuum before peace will—unless the peacemakers work diligently to establish it. Peace is found where you make it.

Finally, there is the peace that transcends anything that can be found in the world, the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), the peace that Jesus gives, “not as the world gives” (John 14:27). This “peace of God” within us is what enables us to make any sort of true peace around us; it “keeps our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, his greeting was “Peace be with you.” His peace. The peace of One who had come from God and was going to God; the peace of Him who promised to abide in us. His blessing of peace still comes upon us, for his Church has retained it in her Liturgy. When the priest blesses you with Jesus’ words of peace, do you open your heart to receive it, or is it (to you) merely a routine or standard liturgical formula that has no effect whatever on your soul? The risen Christ is in our midst when we gather to worship Him, and He breathes his peace upon us as He gave the Spirit of Peace to his disciples after his resurrection.

Let the Lord’s peace remain in you as the deep foundation of your life in Him. Know where you have come from and where you are going. Despite the inevitable turmoil of this life, you can have hope and joy because of that unshakable peace you preserve in your inner depths. This peace no one can take from you—if you follow Jesus with your whole heart. When his peace is the very respiration of your soul, then making peace will be the most natural thing to do.