Joseph L. Farrell, O.S.A.
Curia Generalizia Agostiniana
Acts 15: 1-2, 22-29
Ps 67: 2-3, 5, 6, 8
Rev 21: 10-14, 22-23
John 14: 23-29
So what is your way to peace?
Jesus tells us in today’s gospel for the sixth Sunday of Easter, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” Is Jesus referring to a type of peace that is different from the world? Or is it the way in which he leaves peace as a gift that is so different from the world? Let’s look at both questions separately.
Is there a difference between the peace of the world, and the gift of peace that Jesus gives? We must ask ourselves what our definition of peace is. For some, peace is the mere absence of war or conflict. For others, peace is the complete presence of justice, balance, and right relationships. The word Shalom is a word that means peace. Jeru-Salem is the city of Peace. Our 2nd reading today from the Book of Revelation provides us with a description of a vision of the New Jeru-salem. This New Jerusalem signifies the church and the fullness of Christ’s presence. The number 12 is used frequently in describing what this New Jerusalem is like: its foundation, we are told, is built on “Twelve courses of stones, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” The city of peace, the new Jeru-Salem, the church, finds its foundation, its strength in the teaching of the Apostles, the Disciples of Christ. These are the disciples who received peace as a gift from Jesus and then went forth to proclaim that Gospel of Peace to the ends of the earth. At times, this mission was met with conflict, or as we see hints of in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, “with no little dissension or debate.”
History has proven that there are no easy solutions to conflict or dissension. News of wars that continue between nations, tribes, and people seems to fill our newspapers, computers and television screens. Conflicts, unfortunately, do not only exist on battlefields. They exist in businesses, political parties, churches and families. Individual experiences, perceptions and interpretations of a variety of circumstances and situations can create division and, at times, conflict, when people no longer see, as we say, “eye to eye”. It may seem like an oversimplification of complicated issues, but there is some wisdom in the words of Pope Francis in his most recent Apostolic Exhortation on the Family entitled Amoris Laetitia. He reminds us of the value in being kind. He repeats the simple message of the importance of saying “Please,” “Thank you”, and “I’m sorry”. His message to all who are called to assist those who experience difficulty in living God’s law is “to pursue the via caritatis”…the way of charity, or love. (par 306)
So we, as members of the Church, the new Jerusalem, have peace as our foundation. It is the peace that is a direct gift from Jesus Christ. We are able to share that peace with others, precisely because we have received that peace as a gift. What we give is the gift that has been given to us. Perhaps that is the difference between the peace of Christ and the peace of the world. The peace of Jesus Christ is the gift of Christ, himself. When Christ leaves his peace, he leaves his very self as a gift to the world. The peace of Christ is Christ. The peace that the world gives is also Christ, but it is Christ that is received as a gift. We must be open to receiving that gift in order to give it. When John the evangelist uses the word “world” it very often refers to those who have not accepted that gift of Christ. It refers to those who refuse the gift of Christ’s saving grace and law of love in their lives. The members of the “world” for John are those who refuse to love. And we know that the peace of the gospel must be based on the love of God, which has been poured into our hearts.
This, now, leads us back to the second part of the question. Is there a difference between the way the world gives peace, and the way Christ gives peace? The difference is in the way, if you will, the “via”. When peace, which is received as total gift of Christ and from Christ, is given through the “via caritatis,” then peace becomes an authentic manifestation of Christ’s love. Psalm 119 teaches us, “Great peace have those who love Your law.” Let us find in today’s celebration an opportunity to reflect on this gift of peace in our own lives and how we are called to follow the via caritatis, in discovering how we can contribute to the growth of the new evangelization of Christ’s mission of love by walking in the way of peace. It is a gift we are invited to receive, let it be a gift that we give to others each day. In a world when, at times, we find ourselves attracted to news of a royal birthday celebration of a Queen or the death of a Prince in the field of music entertainment, let us not forget the Prince of Peace, who we celebrate with Easter faith in this liturgy and we imitate by sharing that peace by following his way of love.