Saturday, May 12, 2007

My Peace I Give You

It’s hard to believe that we are already coming near to the end of the Easter season. Easter is the longest of the privileged liturgical seasons, but it seems to go by the fastest.

And as we come to these last Sundays of Easter, we’re aware of a real shift that has occurred in our celebration of the Easter mystery. At the beginning of Easter we recalled with joy the Resurrection appearances. We celebrated the fact that the Lord is risen from the tomb.

But in these later Sundays, we celebrate the mysteries of how the presence of the Risen Lord is with us now. This started in earnest two weeks ago on Good Shepherd Sunday, when we heard about how the presence of Jesus continues to guide and lead us in our lives. Last Sunday we celebrated the new commandment to “love one another” as Jesus Christ has loved us.

Today we hear of another great gift and presence of the Risen Lord among us: Peace. Jesus, as he is preparing his disciples for the coming of the Holy Spirit, tells them not be troubled or afraid—he is giving them the gift of peace. And we have that beautiful expression that we use in every Eucharist as we prepare ourselves for Holy Communion: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”

The active, positive presence of peace wherever it is found, whether it be among friends, within families, or among nations, it is a “real presence” of Jesus Christ, Resurrected and risen anew for the new life of the world.

But notice! The Lord makes a critical distinction when he makes this gift of his peace. He says that he gives us his peace, but “not as the world gives do I give it to you.” So what’s the difference between the peace the world gives and the peace that is the presence of Jesus among us?

Here’s an example of the so-called peace that the world gives. When I was in college I had a girlfriend, and, as sometimes happens, her mother did not approve of me. And one day, she took me aside, and here’s what she said: “Charles, my daughter will love you no matter what you do. But I won’t. Therefore, you might as well do what I say because then you will be pleasing to us both.”

She was offering me a peace treaty, and you can’t argue with the logic. But it’s the peace the world gives, the cheap peace that says, “You and I can be at peace, as soon as you come around to thinking and acting the way I think you should.” And we do this kind of thing to each other all the time, and we mistakenly call it peace. When politicians announce peace at the end of a war, it’s not the real peace that is God’s gift, but simply the fact that one group of people has succeeded in forcing another around to their way of doing things, their way of using resources, or their form of government.

This happens in religion too, as is painfully evident in the first reading today. In the apostolic Church there were struggles between the older, Jewish Christians, and the newer converts, who had not been Jews. And as we heard, the original, Jewish Christians were trying to say that theirs was the only way of being a Christian. They said: it’s great that you gentiles want to be disciples of Jesus Christ, but you have to do it our way.

So thank God for Paul and Barnabas, who had the courage of the Spirit to say that were not going to hold back the grace of God by saying that there was only one way of being a Christian. Without denying the beauty and validity of Jewish Christianity, they found compromises that allowed others to come to the Lord as well. They found a way to make peace.

Too often we let ourselves be tricked into thinking that peace is a kind of absence. We think of peace as the absence of conflict, or as the absence of any difficulties or problems that interfere with our own plans and needs.

Real peace, the peace that is Jesus’ gift to us and is his risen presence among us, is so much more than that. It is a powerful and active force, bubbling up like a leaven for the renewal of all creation. It is the power that can make us brave enough to forgive each other. And it will encourage us to risk the vulnerability that lets us ask for and accept forgiveness for the many ways we have hurt those around us.

“My peace I leave you, my peace I give to you.” Let us rejoice in the Risen Lord’s gift of peace, the peace that, should we accept it, will break our cycles of violence and revenge, and will re-create the world according to the “original blessing” that is the very happiness of God.

(6th Sunday of Easter, C)

1 comment:

sadako said...

Nice homily bro. Everytime I hear or read the word "Peace", it always remind me of Francis of Assisi. He made true peace with the moors without compromising his beliefs. I always look up to Francis whenever I experience conflict.