Sunday Sermon for May 5, 2013, the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C
Readings: Acts: 15:1-2, 22-29; Rev 21:10-14, 22-23; Jn 14:23-29
In the Gospel reading today our Lord leaves us as His parting gift His own peace. He makes it clear when speaking of His peace that it is a peace that the world cannot give. This is because the world, at most, can only give an external peace and that only on the natural level. Our Lord, on the other hand, gives us a peace that is internal and supernatural. It comes from Him, leads us to Him and unites us with Him.
This peace our Lord gives is something that, once obtained, cannot be taken from us. St. Stephen, for instance, expresses this peace so profoundly when He was being accused of many things while he kept his focus on Jesus and his face looked like that of an angel. The threats and even the sentence of death did not shake his peace. This is the peace that is present for each one of us, given as a gift from our Lord Himself.
Jesus tells us that we are not to allow our hearts to be troubled or afraid. While there are many prideful people who try to appear untroubled, it requires very little to recognize the unsettled nature of what is happening within them. The façade they erect is usually quite flimsy and collapses easily. Because this sense of peace is self made, the focus of such a person is normally on themselves or on material riches. Neither is a source of anything but anxiety.
There is only one way to gain the peace our Lord gives us: to keep our focus on Him. If we know that He is in control of everything, then we do not have to divert our attention from Him in order to worry about the things of our lives. This does not mean that we do not perform properly the duties of our state; instead, it means that we carry out these duties for the Lord. This way our focus remains on Him.
When we know that we are doing His will we can be at peace. When we take our eyes off of the Lord we will quickly lose our peace because we try to do something we know He does not want us to do. Rejection of God’s will always leads to trouble on the inside. Doing God’s will, even when it is painful or difficult, will always lead to peace. We see an example of this in the first reading where some well meaning people try to tell the Gentile converts that they have to become Jews in order to be Christians. We are told that there was dissension and debate. God’s will brings unity; anything less brings division. Unity brings peace and division brings chaos.
It is pleasant to consider the peace of our Lord and how wonderful it would be to have it, but our Lord is not seeking pleasantries. He tells us in the Gospel that if we love Him and keep His word, the Most Holy Trinity will come to dwell in our souls. God is there whenever you are in the State of Grace. This makes you His Temple and His dwelling place. In the second reading we are given a glimpse of the Heavenly dwelling place of the Divine. This is what each of our souls is supposed to look like. If they did, imagine the peace that would be ours.
Too many of us fail to recognize our dignity which is a reflection of God Himself. Too many of us fail to pray and to trust in the Lord. Too many of us have pushed the Church’s teaching an arm’s distance away so that we are not bothered by them and then we can do whatever we choose. Too many of us have made the faith and intellectual exercise rather than being truth lived in love.
We cannot have the peace of Christ in our hearts unless our hearts are open to receive His peace. If He is going to dwell in us as in a Temple, then we need to make sure that the doors of that Temple are never closed Him Who dwells within. It is hard just to open our hearts at all let alone keep them open. Only an open heart can receive the Holy Spirit and the love of our Lord given through the Him.
Our world does not know peace; therefore, it cannot even give us an external peace. The constant barrage of sensory stimuli diverts our attention from the Lord and places it on something that is external to ourselves. It promises peace, but has no ability to grant it. If you want real peace turn to the Lord, keep your focus on Him, seek to do His will and His peace will be yours.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.