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DO you long for peace? In my encounters with other Christians in the past few years, the most evident spiritual malady is that few are at peace. Almost as if there is a common belief growing among Catholics that a lack of peace and joy is simply part of the suffering and spiritual attacks upon the Body of Christ. It is “my cross,” we like to say. But that is a dangerous assumption bringing about an unfortunate consequence upon society as a whole. If the world is thirsting to see the Face of Love and to drink from the Living Well of peace and joy… but all they find are the brackish waters of anxiety and the mud of depression and anger in our souls… where will they turn?
God wants His people to live in interior peace at all times. And it is possible…
OUR LACK OF FAITH
St. Leo the Great once said,
…human ignorance is slow to believe what it does not see, and equally slow to hope for what it does not know. —Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. IV, p. 206
The very first thing to understand and believe with all your heart, is that God is always present to you.
Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you… I am with you always, to the close of the age. (Isaiah 49:15; Matt 28:20)
Do you think that your sin has pushed God away? Jesus came to find sinners. Your sinfulness, in fact, draws He who is Mercy toward you! And even if you cursed Him and ordered Him to leave, where would He go? He may step aside, and in sorrow, allow you to wander according to your flesh as you welcome the enemy into your camp. But He would never leave. He would not cease to pursue the lost sheep. So God is always present to you.
His presence is the source of peace and joy. His presence is the wellspring of every good treasure and blessing. Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of God. If He is as near to you as your breath, then you are able, even in the midst of suffering, to stop for a moment and “breathe in” the presence of God. This knowledge of His unconditional love and mercy, of His unending presence with you, is a key that unlocks the door to true peace.
No, God does not want His people to walk about with drooping hands and weak knees, the look of gloom upon our faces. When did Satan convince Christians that this was the look of abandonment? When did misery start to look like sanctity? When did bitterness assume the Face of Love? “May God deliver me from gloomy saints!” St. Teresa of Avila once quipped.
What is the reason for our sadness? We are still in love with ourselves. Still in love with our comfort and riches. When temptations and hardships, sickness and trials come, changing the course of our day, if not our lives, we are like the sad rich man who walked away because of the narrow and difficult path of poverty that lay before him. Spiritual poverty is a path that strips us of our own strength and “plans,” causing us to rely once again upon God. But would God lead you down a path that would not result in the most incomprehensible joys?
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:3)
He offers not just blessings, but the Kingdom! Humility is to accept all things from the hand of God with docility and obedience. Paradoxically, it is this very surrender to God’s will that produces in the soul the fruit of peace, even as one “embraces” the cross.
…the spring of divine power rises in the midst of human weakness… “As you gradually embrace your own cross, uniting yourself spiritually to My Cross, the salvific meaning of suffering will be revealed to you. In suffering, you will discover an interior peace and even spiritual joy.” —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Mass for the sick, L’Osservatore Romano, May 19th, 2010
GOD WANTS YOU TO BE PEACEFUL
At the dawn of this new era—the birth of Christ— the angels announced the intentions of God:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased. (Luke 2:14)
And what is it that pleases God?
…without faith it is impossible to please him, for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Heb 11:6)
It is trust in Him that guarantees the transmission of peace. It is a heart that seeks Him. Why does this please God? When a baby reaches out his arms for his dad, I can tell you, there is nothing more pleasing! And how that baby is rewarded with kisses and cuddles and the warmest looks of love. God made you for Him, and the more you seek Him the happier you will be. He knows this and that’s why it pleases Him. Do you think God wants you to be happy? Then seek His presence, and you will find Him. Knock on His Heart, and He will open wide the Rivers of Peace. Ask for His peace, and He will give it to you because He made you to live in peace. Peace was the fragrance of the Garden of Eden.
For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the LORD, and I will change your lot… (Jeremiah 29:11-14)
What lot? Your spiritual lot. The lot of your soul. The outer circumstances of your life—your health, your job situation, the difficulties you face—may or may not change. But the peace and grace to go through them will be there. This is your hope and your strength, that with God, all things can work to the good (Rom 8:28).
Hence, in human suffering we are joined by one who experiences and carries that suffering with us; hence con-solatio is present in all suffering, the consolation of God’s compassionate love—and so the star of hope rises. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Mass for the sick, L’Osservatore Romano, May 19th, 2010; cf. Spe Salvi, n. 39
After Jesus’ death, the Apostles sat in the upper room, their world, their hopes and dreams shattered by the death of their Messiah. And then He appeared suddenly among them…
Peace be with you… (John 20:21)
I will hear what the Lord God has to say, a voice that speaks of peace, peace for his people and his friends, and those who turn to him in their hearts. (Psalm 85:8)
Jesus did not “fix” everything for them—their political aspirations for the Messiah or the persecution and sufferings they would now endure. But He did open for them a new way, the Way of Peace. The message of the angels was now fulfilled. Peace incarnate stood before them: “I will be with you until the end of time.” The Prince of Peace will always be with you. Do not be afraid to believe this! Do not doubt that God wants you to live, even now in your situation, in that peace which surpasses all understanding:
How then do you find this peace? How does this River of Life flow through you soul (Jn 7:38)? Remember, the peace Jesus gives is not as the world gives (Jn 14:27). So the peace of Christ will not be found in the passing pleasures of this world but in the presence of God. Seek first the Kingdom of God; seek to have His Heart, which is a heart for souls. Do not neglect prayer, which is to drink from the River of Peace; and trust in God in absolutely everything. To do so is to be childlike, and such souls know the peace of God:
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7)
Lastly, this peace is not to be kept hidden. It is not something God gives to you alone as if your faith is a “private matter.” This Peace is to be raised like a city on a hill. It is to be a wellspring from which others may come and drink. It is to be carried without fear into the thirsting hearts of this restless and lonely world. As He has given His peace to us, now we must be His ambassadors of Peace to the world…
Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. (John 20:21)