Deacon Blog May 26, 2019
Search for Peace
I’ve had a few conversations lately that have prompted some thoughts on happiness. I was reading an article on life in America (and around the world) that referred to which countries were the happiest and where the United States fell in world standings. For the record, the U.S. ranked 19th in the world, down 5 points since 2014. The pseudo-socialist countries of Scandinavia (Finland, Sweden, Netherlands) all scoring in the top ten, and the war torn and financially devastated countries of Syria and Venezuela rounding out the list of least happy places to live. As I read the criteria used to establish this list, not a single mention was made to a sense of peace as an algorithmic data point. Seems no one was interested in venturing down this road and I wondered why. The focus was on safety, healthcare, recreation, workplace environment, education, economic security and opportunities, etc. Feelings of peace just seem to be a logical issue for evaluating happiness. Not being a social scientist myself, I Googled the subject and found very little secular discussion matter to digest. Not surprisingly, most of the conversation on the subject occurred on Christian sites, overwhelmingly Catholic. All this did was spur more questions and pique my interest in a subject we just don’t hear much public debate about. To be clear, when world news mentions peace it is exclusively referring to an absence of war or military conflict. As Christians, there is a more profound understanding of what peace is and its orifin in our lives when we seek to understand our relationship with GOD. Another speculation is that peace is a hard thing to quantify because it means different things to different people. For many it is the absence of worry or anxiety, be it finances, food security, or relationships. Some experience peace in the quiet and calm of an interior life devoted to prayer, but what is it and why is it so essential to our well-being and effectiveness as disciples?
First of all, an absence of war or conflict does not automatically produce peace in the heart. All over the world, poverty and political strife create everything but peace, with or without conflict. In the Mass we exchange a “sign of Christ’s Peace”, interestingly in the middle of the Eucharistic prayers. I would make an argument that this reference could accurately be called a “sign of Christ’s welcome or friendship” … an embrace of communal unity. But does real peace exist in this rite? Also, during the Eucharistic Rite is the prayer (from John’s gospel) “Peace I leave you, my Peace I give you. Look not on our sins but on the faith of your Church and graciously grant her Peace and unity in accordance with your WILL.” In this moment of the MASS the priest shifts to a “first person” voice of Jesus asking the FATHER to shower Peace upon the people of GOD. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (C.C.C.), peace is a result of the “education of conscience”, acquired through the sacrament of confession and a relationship with the Holy Spirit… as in “fruits of”. To be clear, peace is the result of deeply entering into LOVE, which then requires that we recognize and agree to allow peace to live within us. In this sense, peace is a “covenantal” or reciprocal effort, experienced as the gift of having first been loved by GOD.
The theological context for peace is only found and experienced through an understanding that our lives have been redeemed, we have been rescued from death, and GOD has “Loved us” into existence. It speaks of the deepest level of emotional and spiritual comfort. Our depth of understanding and the level of relationship we are willing to work for are criteria for finding and owning GOD’s gift of peace for our lives. John’s Gospel (14:21) tells us that when we love GOD, GOD loves us. This isn’t a condition for receiving this LOVE, it speaks to a state of relationship whereby we have opened our hearts and minds to receiving what is already present to us. When someone dies, we often say “now they are at peace” for they reside eternally with GOD in heaven. Too often this is a peace that eluded the deceased prior to death. In this life, a deep sense of peace is available to us when we give our full devotion to LOVE. When we study the lives of the Saints, we see time and again, their peace overflowing through their words and actions, serving the Lord in the ways they have been called. We are the same. We have all been called to something. First, it is in serving the Church for this is our spiritual home and education begins here. Without this first step, there is no structure or Canon to religious formation, only personal interpretation or opinion. Without this guidance the Sacraments, as a means to receive peace in our souls, is challenged. Everything we seek below this level is superficial, as it can all be taken from us. True JOY and true Peace are found only in our creation as children of GOD and can never be removed from us by anyone or anything (without our permission). Unfortunately, it can be forfeited by us.
The Church’s mission, to bring the Gospel to the world, includes helping us seek (and find) a peace that transcends the happiness or circumstances of this world. It becomes “food” for our journey. This has been an interesting topic for me to explore the past few weeks… and I’m not done. It has prompted me to evaluate my own awareness and sense of peace… and honestly my eyes and heart have been opened. I invite you to this inventory of Joy and let me know what you uncover. Just meditating on this topic, alone, gave me some peace… or at least the tangible sense that it is obtainable and within my grasp. We live lives of such preoccupation so the awareness of something so valuable creates opportunities we often never knew existed. It’s like being in the desert dying of thirst, and suddenly realizing water is just beneath the surface we are standing on. With a little effort our thirst, our lives… our Peace is brought to life.
A Blessed and Peace Filled Easter Season to All
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