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Finding the Path to Peace in an Age of Violence and Hostility

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Jesus said to his disciples:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. — John 14:27

The beloved disciple John offers this wonderful account for all of us in the Gospel which bears his name.

This gift of peace which Jesus offers is critically important in this age filled with the opposite. We awaken daily to reports of terror, bloodshed, and growing persecution against Christians. Many among us have let our hearts become troubled. We are losing this gift of peace.

How can we get it back and walk in it? What is this peace which Jesus offers and the world cannot take away? Is it dependent upon circumstances, or can it actually become the stable ground upon which we are able to walk through all circumstances, confident of the love of God?

In the Gospel written by the Apostle Luke, we encounter Jesus as He begins His journey to Jerusalem. There He will voluntarily offer Himself on the Second Tree of the Cross. He will deal death a fatal blow and crush the evil one whose lies had unleashed its awful effect, separation from God, and the resulting bad fruits of that estrangement.

Certainly this was not a path upon which one would “feel” peaceful. Yet, that cross, an instrument of torture, will become the sign of peace, for all those who find their refuge under its shadow and embrace the One who stretches out His arms to embrace the whole world.

There Jesus will deal definitively with the great enemy of peace, the sin which impedes its growth in each of our lives.

With tenderness He looks out from the Mount of Olives and sees the Holy City of Jerusalem. How he loves that City. Then, Jesus weeps. He knows the City will soon be overtaken and destroyed by the armies of Titus. He weeps the tears of Love and cries compassion from His Sacred Heart:

If this day you only knew what makes for peace- but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides.

They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation. — Luke 19:41-44

The path to peace passes through recognizing the Lord’s visitation in our own lives, and our allowing Him to take the lead along the way. We find this path to true peace when we recognize the time of our own visitation; when we enter into an ongoing relationship with the One who is the only source of true peace, Jesus Christ, and then allow Him to lead us.

Jesus loved Jerusalem and all of the people to whom he spoke these words recorded by Luke. He had spent three years walking her dusty streets and encountering her inhabitants, welcoming them all to find peace through encountering God, as fully revealed, in Him.

He had taught in the temples and engaged the learned with the wisdom of heaven itself. He had healed the sick, multiplied bread – and even raised the dead. However, they failed to recognize the time of their visitation. Their eyes were closed to the One who held within Himself – and offered in His Message – the path to peace. They did not recognize God in their midst.

Do we?

Jesus continues to visit us. He is walking in our own lives, right now. He comes to take up His residence within us. His love and mercy are revealed in the very real events of our everyday life, if we have the eyes to see Him – eyes opened by living faith. It is in encountering Jesus that we find the path to true peace.

Peace is not the absence of conflict. Rather, it is the presence of God. It grows in us as a fruit and transforms us from within as we learn to live in His presence. When we do this, we can then become its instrument for others.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no  law.  — Gal. 5:22,23

In a world which is spiraling out of control, all who bear the name Christian are especially called to live in this true peace. We are called to bring others to this true peace – by bringing them to an encounter with the One who is its Source, Jesus Christ, the Savior.

At the Last Supper, right before he voluntarily walked the Way of the Cross for each one of us, Jesus spoke the words to his disciples with which I began this reflection:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. — John 14:27

We need to hear these words today, deep inside of us. In that place the Scripture refers to as the heart. The path to true peace passes through prayer, encounter and communion. It finds its fertile ground in the heart which is given over completely to the Lord.

Jesus set forth the relational framework for a lifestyle of prayer in the prayer we call the Our Father. In the Liturgy of the Catholic Church, we pray it together and then offer one another a sign of Christ’s peace. The practice is ancient.

In the Gospel of St. Luke, after teaching the disciples to enter into a life of communion by utilizing that prayer as a framework, he tells the disciples a parable concerning one type of prayer, persevering prayer for needs. (Luke 11:1-13) However, His entire time with the disciples is an instruction in Prayer and communion with His Father. It is a demonstration of living in real peace.

He shows them – and He shows us us – the pattern of living in a continual communion with the Father, and finding the peace which this world cannot give. He invites them – and He invites us – into the very communion of love which He has with the Father, in the Spirit.

He shines His light on our lives and reveals the path to peace. Then, He leads us along the way. He is the Way. (John 14:6) We learn to walk in His way as we recognize the time of our own visitation and respond to the graces offered. This is not an unattainable aspiration! It is an invitation into a whole new way of living, a life of communion with God – a life of peace – even in the midst of trial, trouble and travail.

Through His saving Incarnation – His conception, Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension – Jesus removes the impediment to all of us our entering into this experience of true peace and communion. He also gives us the grace we need to begin living in that communion in the here and now, by cultivating lives of prayer and communion with the Father, in the Son and through the Spirit.

He shows us the path to the peace we long for – and makes it possible, beginning right now, to walk in its way, if we learn to recognize His visitation. Then, He wants to enlist each one of us to help bring the whole world to this peace. This is the peace which all men and women long for.

The men and women of this age will find the path to peace by encountering Jesus and learning to recognize his visitation.

We are called to reveal the path to peace to others in this age of violence and hostility by showing them Jesus. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matt. 5:9



 

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