Breath of the Spirit: Peace! Peace! And there is no peace.
Jesus tells us that peace is his gift to us, but that gift can seem in very short supply these days. Where is the gift of peace in Ukraine, in the Sudan, in our national political scene, in many of our families, and in our hearts? This week’s readings remind us, though, that neither the world nor the Christian community have ever been without strife. Instead, this week’s reflection reminds us that peace is not the absence of difficulties, but the potential to open to the Spirit of Love in the midst of them.
Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23
Peace! Peace! And there is no peace.
A reflection by David Jackson
In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus say to the disciples: “Peace is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you; I do not give it to you as the World gives peace.” We too are disciples of Jesus. These words are addressed to us as well. We are to know the peace of Christ. Of course as we look at our world today, we see many examples where there is no peace. And if we look into our own lives, sadly, we also find times when we are not at peace.
In the first reading we hear about people coming to a community and their teaching disturbed people. This still happens today. It may be a knock on our door, it may be something that we see on TV, or hear on the radio; it may be something that someone says to us. The first reading speaks of “no little dissension and debate.” Other translations say, “they led to disagreement and long argument,” or “they got into a fierce argument.” These are ways to speak of a lack of peace. In our lives too, dissension, controversy, disagreement, long and fierce arguments disturb the peace.
But as the scriptures have some words about the lack of peace, they also give us some direction about how to find or make peace. Once the problem was identified we notice the people in the Acts of the Apostles do something about it. They seek help. They send representatives to see the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. From the apostles and elders, they receive a letter which offers them advice and teaching.
In our lack of peace, first, we must identify the source of our unsettledness. Second, we need to seek a solution. This may mean seeking help from the apostles and elders in our midst: perhaps a holy and wise member of our family, a respected teacher, a priest or sister. What is important is that we seek help.
We may not even know the source of our lack of peace. But we may still feel something missing, a lack of peace in our lives. Peace is not just the absence of violence, not just the lack of dissension, THE PEACE OF CHRIST is something more and something the world cannot give. This peace includes God coming to us and dwelling in our hearts, only then do we know this divine peace, the presence of God in our lives.
Jesus returned to Abba God (we will celebrate this in a special way on Ascension Thursday) to send us the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit (we will celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday). When we receive the Spirit we know in our lives the presence of God, of presence of Peace. The Spirit comes to instruct us in everything and remind us of all that Jesus told us to help us claim – and reclaim if necessary – that divine peace which only comes from God.
Do you ever know this experience in your life? Do you sometimes feel that God’s Holy Spirit is instructing you? Do you ever feel this Spirit reminding you of something that Jesus told us? We are called to listen to the Spirit in our lives. We are not to be distressed or fearful. It seems that so many people, especially parents, are exceedingly fearful today. We must be open to the promise that Jesus wants us to know peace and salvation, to breathe in the Spirit. Let us open our hearts to receive this Spirit, this gift of peace. When we exchange the sign of peace at a liturgy, we must remind ourselves, “Peace is a gift and a task.” First, we can open to the gift, and then activate ourselves for the task.
As a Catholic priest for 48 years David Jackson preached on most Sundays. His love of Scripture led him to pursue an M.A. from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. For the past 16 years, he has sent out homily reflections to friends. For the last two years these reflections have also been available on Roman Catholic Women Priests Canada's bimonthly newsletter. Since he discovered Catholic Women Preach, that web site is part of his weekly preparation. At 82 years of age, he has been married for the last ten years to the love of his life, Alva. His first book, Jesus Gardens Me, is available on Amazon.