Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO
6th Sunday of Easter
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you”. The peace that Jesus leaves with us is a kind of farewell gift from him: the precious gift of a peace that the world cannot give.
His gift of peace is not the same thing as a feeling of peace. The mistake we often make is to want the feeling of peace to be our only feeling. We all want to feel at peace at all times and in everything we do. But that is not God’s plan for our emotional lives. In his infinite love for us, he has foreseen that a world in which feelings of peace and anxiety, joy and sorrow, intermingle, will better proclaim his glory, which is his ultimate goal.
This plan is good, because it is his plan, and Jesus understood this very well. Immediately after giving his own peace to the disciples, he went out to the garden of Gethsemani and said, “My soul is sorrowful to the point of death”. He spoke of his human feelings in the face of death, but at another level there was only peace, because he was able to say to the Father, “Your will be done”. In the same way, the kind of peace that Jesus gives is something different from a feeling of peace; it’s independent of whatever we may be feeling at the moment.
The disciples in the first reading are a good example of the peace that Christ gives. They heard the same words that we heard in this morning’s Gospel, but in reality they never found exterior peace in this life. The Acts of the Apostles is one long story of how they were constantly being brought before kings and governors, and were jailed or put to death. But through it all they never lost the peace of Christ, real peace in the midst of all these troubles. They experienced that the kind of peace that Christ gives is something different from the absence of trials; it’s independent of whatever may be happening in our lives at the moment.
So what is the peace that Christ gives? It’s the deepest kind of interior peace. He gave it to us at our baptism, which affects the innermost core of our being, where we are most truly ourselves. We may not be aware of this peace of Christ within us, any more than most of us were aware that we were being baptized. When our sensitive nature is going through a severe trial, we’re not aware of anything but the trial, because that occupies the most conscious part of ourselves. But that doesn’t mean that we have lost the peace of Christ, only our awareness of it. The peace of Christ is like the presence of God within us, and so long as we have not offended him gravely, God is there, whether we are conscious of him or not.
This innermost core of our being, which has been affected by baptism, is the only enduring reality in this life. It is what received the peace of Christ, and made each of us special to God, and is what assures the continuity of our lives as Christians, through all the changes that occur in every day and every hour. It is like the holy city Jerusalem, which we heard about in the second reading. This Jerusalem “came down out of heaven from God”, like Christ baptizing us and giving us his peace.
This inner Jerusalem is truly what its name means, “the city of peace”, an abiding peace that cannot be disturbed by our feelings or by the events of our lives, and which is there within us whether we are conscious of it or not. It is a holy city, because the glory of God is there within us, so long as we love him and keep his word. The Source of peace dwells within us, and therefore we should not let our hearts be troubled or afraid of anything.
At this Eucharist, the Lamb of God will come to us and be the temple within us. Let us ask him to renew his gift of peace within us and let it influence every area of our lives as Christians, so that when we come to the heavenly Jerusalem, we may recognize it as our eternal home.