The Catholic Liturgy for the 6th Sunday of Easter, May 26, 2019. Gospel – John 14:23-29. Theme: Peace the World Cannot Give
Throughout Sacred Scripture, from beginning to end, two virtues are praised as blessings from God: love and peace. Not surprisingly, these are also two things that most people - of any faith or no religion at all - say are what they value most in life. No matter if we are young or old, rich or poor, healthy or sick, we all want to know that we are loved and we all desire to live in peace. In last Sunday’s gospel, Jesus told us what it means to love. In today’s gospel, He speaks to us of peace.
We just heard him say, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you,” So, what did he mean by saying, “not as the world gives…” Well peace as the world understands it typically means the absence of war and the lack of conflict or hostilities between peoples. Now seeking this kind of peace is, of course, a noble and honorable thing. We even devote holidays such as Memorial Day to remembering and praying for those who gave up their very lives for this type of peace.
But the peace Jesus is talking about is very different. It is a tranquility and serenity that resides deep within us and has its origin in God. This understanding of peace was so cherished by the Jewish people that it actually formed their daily greeting. “Shalom! God’s peace be with you,” they would say to one another. They thought of peace as the fullness of health and well-being that goes right down to the innermost core of the human person. This peace was so precious that it was considered to be worth living and even dying for. And actually, that’s exactly what Jesus did.
It might help to know that along with “shalom” there is another “s” word that the Bible uses for the gift of peace. That word is “salvation”, something we all have heard a million times. It is derived from the Latin word salus, which means health and wholeness. Through this salus, this salvation, the human person is spiritually healed and made whole at his or her deepest core. The part of us which we call the immortal soul.
And it is in our souls where real peace begins. Only God has the power to enter into this innermost part of who we are and bring about the healing and wholeness we need. This is why Jesus calls the peace that he gives us something that the world cannot give. It is also the kind of peace that we wish one another every time we are at Mass, just before receiving Holy Communion.
But the problem is that we so often try to find peace where Jesus says it cannot be found! We search for this peace in so many ways that are not God. We so often try to find this contentment in our wealth or possessions, by going into one relationship after another. Some people are always looking for that better job that will finally make them happy, while others think that having nicer cars or moving upwards into bigger houses will do the trick. We run after these things in hopes of filling up that void inside us that never seems to be satisfied. All in hopes of quieting that voice inside us that always seems to be telling us that something is not quite right in our lives.
But none of these things will calm our restless hearts. The problem, the void, the brokenness is deep inside us. All the things we chase after can never reach deep down into our core and sooth the disturbances that reside there. They can never calm our consciences of the wrongs we have done and which still haunt us. They can never take away the tension that comes from thinking that we always have to look perfect and act perfect in order to be loved, in order to be happy.
The peace we seek is a fruit of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, which is why Jesus promises to send Him to us in today’s Gospel. This is also why Jesus connects the gift of peace to the fact that God dwells within us. For when God enters into us by grace his very presence heals our spiritual wounds and brings serenity, peace of heart and soul. The Spirit’s presence within us will enable us to really see and admit that we do not have the power to fix ourselves. The Holy Spirit will help us to turn our lives over to the care of God who can do this and who wants only what is best for us. So, we have nothing to fear; we just need to ask for healing and trust Him. When we do this, and really mean it, we will begin to experience the peace that Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel; the peace that the world cannot give.