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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Fr. Bob Warren's Reflection for the Week

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Franciscan Friars
Franciscan Friars
"My Peace I Leave You"
(John 14:23-29)
In Sunday's gospel, we read of the last discourse of Jesus, and He tells His disciples, "Peace... Peace I leave to you. Peace is My gift to you." What could be simpler? We all know what peace is. Actually, it's not simple at all, not the peace of Christ. There is a problem. This problem was put powerfully in T.S. Elliot's play, "Murder in the Cathedral." He has the Archbishop, Thomas Becket, say in his Christmas sermon, "Does it seem to you that the angels should have announced peace, when ceaselessly, the world has been stricken with war and fears of war? Does it seem to you that the angelic voices were mistaken, and that the promise was a disappointment and a cheat?"
We, too, can ask with Thomas Becket, does the promise of peace clash with reality, especially now? As we see war and violence in so many places around the world, where, oh, where, do we see peace on earth? We see dissention, division, disunity. So, is our liturgy then a mere make-believe pretense? Because we will soon wish one another peace, and there is no peace. Is peace possible? Or is peace another of those words that allow Christians to live at ease in a world at war? War even on the streets of our cities.
Does the word 'peace' enable us to forget that the real world is out there, and that world is fashioned of blood and tears? To forget that there is a real world inside ourselves and that world, too, is at war, seething with passions and fears and at times, with anger and hate.
So what is this peace that Christ promises? What does it mean? For that, you have to go back to the Old Testament. Biblical peace has so rich a content that no single English word can render it. For the Israelites, peace was not simply harmony with nature, with self, with others. True peace meant harmony with God, a right relationship with Him... unity. For the Lord is peace.
Sailors have an old adage. They say the worst storm cannot sink a ship unless it gets inside. The life of Jesus demonstrates this truth, especially in His final week. The storm was raging all around Him, but it never penetrated His heart and mind. He was surrounded. He was surrounded by fear. Pilate was afraid for his position. The priests were afraid for their power. The disciples were afraid for their lives. Fear was everywhere, but the fear never got inside of Him. He was surrounded by hate. The Jews hated the Romans. The Romans hated the Jews. And in that final week, the religious leaders joined forces in hating Jesus. But the hate never got inside of Jesus. He remained steady. He was at one with His Father.
What does that word 'peace' mean for you? It will vary, of course. For a soldier, peace is the absence of war. For a mother, a baby asleep. Now each of these is, indeed, a facet of peace. But do you sense that the peace Christ left you is deeper than any of these? A peace the world cannot give, that is, the presence of God within you. All around you, a communion with God, you are at one with Him. That is true peace. So this peace of Christ can co-exist with war in the world, with human agony, with death, lovelessness, loneliness, with sickness, with cancer. Christ predicted this co-existence. "I have said this to you that in Me you may find peace." In the world, you find suffering, but have courage. I have conquered the world.
If Christ conquered the world, so must each Christian. I am not asking that you go to all the hot spots of the world. I am asking, what war have you ended in your backyard? What mines of envy or hate, discord or dislike have you defused? Who hurts less because you love more? Who hurts more because you love less? Who was depressed, but has come alive at your touch? Who is hungry for food or affection and is fed by your faith? Who experiences God's absence and finds the image of God on your face?
If you want to feel the peace of Christ, glow with it, share it, give it away.
My friends, at each Mass, we wish one another peace. By all means, wish one another blessings, freedom from war, wish one another harmony and health. Pray, indeed, that in every way, they may be well. But over and above all these good things, realize what it is that a Christian nourished on scripture and the Eucharist wishes another Christian. I wish you a deeper and deeper oneness with God, and oneness with His image in those around you. And in the words of a poet, "May the presence of Christ make your spirit spin. May you be aware that heaven is not up. Heaven is within."
Fr. Robert Warren
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Robert Warren Signature
Fr. Robert Warren, S.A.
Spiritual Director
P.S. There are two things in life you can count on: The Love of God and the love of your mother. I know I wouldn't be who I am today without both! On Mother's Day, May 8th, the Friars will remember all mothers, living or deceased, at a Special Mother's Day Mass at Graymoor. Please send me their names right away so the Friars and I may lift them up in prayer during our special Mass.
Franciscan Friars
Franciscan Friars of the Atonement
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