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

cross kneel water
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

by Deacon Keith Fournier

Hannah’s Example

1 Samuel 1:1-20

In today’s passage, the prophet Samuel describes his godly parents and the difficult time they had before he was born. From looking at the life of his mother Hannah, we can learn some important principles by which to live. Though her situation involved motherhood, the lessons apply to both men and women.

STAYING COMMITTED TO FAMILY. One of the women in Hannah’s life tormented her unmercifully. While physical danger wasn’t an issue, there was constant emotional turmoil because she could not avoid this person. How tempting it must have been to try and find a way out. And yet Hannah stayed in the home, prayed to the Lord, and did her best to cope. She demonstrated a commitment to family that overrode her need for relief.

COMMUNICATING LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE. Hannah considered her son Samuel a gift from the Lord (1 Samuel 1:20). I picture her telling him day after day, “God gave you to me. I love you and look forward to what He has planned for you.” We have the power to build up our children and our spouses—or tear them down. Through our prayers, words of affirmation, and hugs and kisses, we show how much we value them. Demonstrating godly love strengthens the people who are most precious to us.

Some of us live with people who make life difficult. At times we are negatively impacted by the choices they make. God understands your situation just as He was fully aware of Hannah’s. Draw close to Him and experience His love and commitment to you. Then express the same to others.

Father of Glory, Father of Lights

“I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face. . . . And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:1-3)

The concluding verse of the hymn “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” recognizes the majesty of our great God. His splendor is so great that even the angels must hide their eyes from the brightness, as we see in our text, while they adoringly praise His purity.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
All praise we would render; O help us to see
‘Tis only the splendor of light hideth thee!

All light and life, as well as all good things, come from God. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). He is not only the “Father of lights,” dispelling each “shadow,” He is the “Father of glory.” Paul prayed for you and me: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened” (Ephesians 1:17-18). As with the hymn writer, we need His help to fully see and praise Him.

Thus, in one hymn we are reminded that God is immortal, invisible, wise, light, blessed, glorious, the Ancient of Days, almighty, victorious, unresting, unhasting, unwanting, not wasteful, mighty, just, life, unchangeable, the Father of glory, the Father of light, and adored by angels. Furthermore, He dwells in splendor, deserves our praise, rules in might, provides goodness and love, gives life, and enlightens our understanding. JDM

A Sense of Inadequacy

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. —2 Corinthians 4:7

I believe I had anticipated that it was going to be a pleasure to expound this beautiful and high soaring Gospel of John. However, I must confess that in my preparation and study a sense of inadequacy has come over me—a feeling of inadequacy so stunning, so almost paralyzing that I am not at this juncture able to call it a pleasure to preach.

Perhaps this will be God’s way of reducing the flesh to a minimum and giving the Holy Spirit the best possible opportunity to do His eternal work. I fear that sometimes our own eloquence and our own concepts may get in the way, for the unlimited ability to talk endlessly about religion is a questionable blessing….

None of us can approach a serious study and consideration of the eternal nature and person of Jesus Christ without sensing and confessing our complete inadequacy in the face of the divine revelation.

Lord, I’ve so often been at that place of total inadequacy. I’ve learned that that is so healthy because then I step aside, I quit relyingon my own “eloquence” and I allow the Holy Spirit to take over and do what only He can do anyway! Use me today in my weakness. Amen.

Prayerful Thoughts of God Are Never a Burden

…The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16

It is hardly possible to overstress the importance of unceasing inward prayer on the part of the one who would live the God-conscious life. Prayer at stated times is good and right; we will never outgrow our need of it while we remain on earth. But this kind of prayer must be supported and perfected by the habit of constant, unspoken prayer!

But someone may question whether in a world like this it is possible to think of God constantly. Would it not be too great a burden to try to keep God constantly in the focus of our minds while carrying on our normal activities in this noisy and highly complex civilization?

Malaval had the answer to this: “The wings of the dove do not weigh it down,” he said; “they carry and support it. And so the thought of God is never a burden; it is a gentle breeze which bears us up, a hand which supports us and raises us, a light which guides us, and a spirit which vivifies us though we do not feel its working.”

We all know how the presence of someone we deeply love lifts our spirits and suffuses us with a radiant sense of peace and well-being. So the one who loves God supremely is lifted into rapture by His conscious Presence!

“Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.”

Faith and Experience

O taste and see that the LORD is good. PSALM 34:8

I insist that the effective preaching of Jesus Christ, rightly understood, will produce Christian experience in Christian believers. Moreover, if preaching does not produce spiritual experience and maturing in the believer, that preaching is not being faithful to the Christ revealed in the Scriptures.

Let me say it again another way: The Christ of the Bible is not rightly known until there is an experience of Him within the believer, for our Savior and Lord offers Himself to human experience.

When Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden” (Matthew 11:28), it is an invitation to a spiritual experience. He is saying, “Will you consent to come? Have you added determination to your consent? Then come; come now!”

Yes, our Lord gives Himself to us in experience. David says in Psalm 34: “O taste and see that the LORD is good.” I think David said exactly what he meant. Surely the Holy Spirit was saying through David: “You have taste buds in your soul for tasting, for experiencing spiritual things. Taste and experience that God is good!”

Lord, the great need of people within and outside our churches today is to experience the “real thing”—God in all His power and majesty and personal involvement in our lives. Help me to inspire others to “taste” You, Lord.