In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul uses the word “peace” four times in two sentences. The Ephesians are a group of Christians struggling to find their own peace in the middle of trying circumstances, and he talks to them a lot in the letter about being reconciled. He encourages them to be reconciled with God, with each other, and with themselves. The source of peace is this reconciliation, which is brought about by Jesus Christ. He’s the one who unifies us with God the Father, with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, and within our own selves by forgiving our sins.
Peace is a scarce commodity. So many of us are full of anxieties that keep us awake at night. Or we’re angry with someone and simply cannot let it go and it’s destroying relationships. Or maybe you have difficulties and doubts about your spiritual life. This may be going on with us here, who know Jesus, who, at least in our heads, know that we have the source of peace with us always. Think about how much worse it can be for those who have no clue, who are finding their source of peace through politics, or a good job, or their youth. As they face up to the reality of a life without God, without an eternal destiny, loneliness and fear of death become real problems.
One possible – not very good – solution is to not think about it. To cover over the anxiety with activity, or with constant entertainment, or over-working. Whatever it takes to not think about it, because if you do, there is nothing but a gaping chasm with no answers. One constant temptation to avoid our own anxieties is to focus negatively on other people. This can be through jealousy and obsessing over what we don’t have. It can be criticizing and dwelling on the flaws of others. It might even be creating conflict where there doesn’t need to be because it allows us to focus on how other people have harmed us or made our lives so bad, when in fact we’re simply avoiding dealing with our own anxieties.
All of these avoidance techniques provide constant stimulus but they only end up robbing us of our peace, and worse, they end up robbing those around us of their peace, because negativity is contagious and when we aim it at others, it can really do some emotional damage. I’ll tell you, it is so easy to talk about other people, to focus on the negative, to drag everything down. Be very aware of it and make a habit of only saying positive, uplifting things, of encouraging and supporting others.
Most of all, when we are doubting ourselves, or anxious and losing our sense of inner peace, instead of turning outwards and getting busy and frenetic and negative, make the choice to instead turn to Jesus. “For,” as St. Paul says, “He is our peace.”
You are not made to fit into a schedule, constantly busy, and anxious about tomorrow. You were made to love life, to know God, and be happy.
On the seventh day, God rested. Jesus follows that pattern and often retreats for some rest. He regularly tells his disciples that it’s time go away to a quiet place for some rest and prayer. And he doesn’t simply send them off – he goes with them. Now, I know that we all do what we have to do to provide for our families and no one should questions that, but what this seventh day of rest shows is that the goal of creation is not the work, not the cares of everyday life, the goal of creation is the rest, the time to contemplate how beautiful life is even when it is hard, how much you love your family and friends, and to spend time in the presence of the sacred.
Heaven is closer than we think, and there are times and places where the veil between heaven and earth is stretched very thin, so much so that it’s almost as if you can see into eternity itself. Those are moments of love. They are created out of the great love of God for us and by our attention to that moment. We have to slow down, though, or we will miss it.
When we truly rest and spend time creating space for our souls to breathe, we approach the heart of Christ from which all peace flows. When you come to Mass, you are very close to God. There is no hurry here, no specific program or agenda we need to accomplish. We are simply here to spend some time with Jesus. And when we walk out those doors, we can take him with us.
The longer we stay in his presence, the further our anxieties and distractions spin away. In our daily lives, we can find that still, quiet place, because Jesus is with us in every single moment. Nothing is too insignificant, no person escapes his gaze, no anxiety will overcome him. This is the strength that you have within you, the very grace of God. Allow it to renew you, seek his presence, and find that he is a mighty bastion of peace.