It is not ordinary, garden variety peace that Jesus promises us. “Not as the world gives, do I give it to you.” Hmm. What are you talking about, Jesus? That shalom is more than health and well being and absence of strife. Rather, it is about the stuff of the Spirit – of being sent and of being true to who and what God calls us to.
Sometimes it is easier to recognize it when we see it lived than to think about it in our heads and ponder it in our hearts. So, who do you know who lives the “Peace” that Jesus gives?
His name was Colin Fowler. It met him during one of those summers doing volunteer work in Northern Ireland. He was 18 at the time. He was a member of an Irish folk singing group. And he hated the ‘troubles’ as they called them in Northern Ireland. And not only did he hate the troubles and the divisions between Catholic and Protestants –between those out of power and those with power, be he decided to do something about it. He would use his music as a forum to speak out. And challenge people to change. And be more forgiving. And more loving. “I take a lot of guff from my friends for my stand against the violence, the troubles. But if everyone just sits on his duff and does nothing – nothing will ever change.” Here is a young man who knew the gift of Jesus in the gospel. My peace is my gift to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you…
Maybe it was the simple dress she always wore. – one of the four outfits that she owned. But I never looked forward to seeing Karen – either in social functions or at Liturgy. And it had nothing to do with her. Or rather, everything to do with her. You see, Karen worked at a shelter for the homeless. And she lived at that shelter for the homeless. She put her life’s energies and the gift of herself on the line for God’s poor. And every time I saw her, I felt challenged. I felt like I was not doing enough in comparison. She never said it, never did anything to trigger that in me – but it is what happened in me in her presence. She knew the peace that comes from putting your life, your ambitions, and your very livelihood at the service of God. Spirit led, she knew peace, “not as the world gives…” And somehow, I knew I had to follow…
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. When we are open to being led by the Spirit, open to putting our will firmly and solidly into the hands of God, then WE know a peace, not as the world gives. That is what allowed Jesus to say these words, knowing that his betrayal and passion and death were only HOURS away. Peace I give you – not the absence of suffering or struggle or loneliness or pain – but the peace that comes only from abandonment completely to God. That is what Jesus wanted his disciples to know.
On the day of my ordination, I had a card printed with a prayer by Brother Charles de Foucauld on the back. If you want to know peace, not as the world gives – then pray this prayer daily…
Father, I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all Your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
and with boundless confidence,
For you are my Father.