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5/22/22 Homily: The Peace of Christ

Updated: Jul 22, 2022

Sunday's readings can be found: [HERE]

Certain words from our gospel today should seem quite familiar. After all, we hear them at every Mass after the Our Father, when the priest prays: Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your Apostles: Peace I leave you, my peace I give you…

I want to take a few moments to speak about that peace. It’s actually kind of a difficult topic to discuss, because it’s not something that can be learned as a matter of discourse. Christ’s peace must be experienced first-hand. It can’t be taught in order to be acquired. Why?

Imagine trying to describe a rose to someone who was blind from birth. You could describe the texture or scent of a rose. You could even give a rose to the another person to handle. But there’s a great chasm of understanding that can’t be bridged apart from an experience of the rose that relates directly to sight. A person could feel and smell a rose, but they’d never be as able to see that magnificent red, or pink, or yellow, or any other color a rose may have.

You might try to describe color by metaphor. You might compare visual beauty to audible beauty, and describe color as pleasant to the eye as music is pleasant to the ear. But no explanation can give someone that experience of sight.

The same is true with music too. A person without hearing from birth might be able to see written notes on a page. They might be able to feel sound waves within their body if music were played loud enough. But none of that truly captures the beauty that is contained in the works of Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, and so many others. As before, one might describe music as pleasant to the ear as color is pleasant to the eye, but experiencing music touches us at a level that words fail to reach.

The same is true with regard to the peace of Christ. One might try to describe Christ’s peace by metaphor, but no description can substitute for an actual experience of it. That was a long disclaimer. I actually will try to describe Christ’s peace—by metaphor—with the hope that we can recognize it when it happens.

The peace of Christ is like the peace of a man and woman who are content with one another to the point of wanting to be married to one another. Neither has actually met every other woman or man in existence, but they’re nevertheless both able to renounce all others for the sake of each other.

That’s one of the questions asked of each member of that couple before marriage: Do you intend to always be faithful to your spouse, exclusive of all others? They’re each able to renounce all others, not through a process of elimination, but because they’ve found fulfillment in each other. They’re not looking for an upgrade or curious to see who's behind door #2 or door #3, because they know and love the person before them. They’re at peace with each other, at least to an earthly degree. And that peace is irrespective to their relationship to any other man or woman.

So also it is with the disciple of Jesus. The disciple in whom Christ’s peace abides is likewise fulfilled—earthly and spiritually. The disciples is content in life, no matter the blessings or the challenges.

Remember Saint Paul in his letter to the Philippians:

I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in him who strengthens me.[1]

Peace is the hallmark of the disciple. Our Lord wants us to experience that peace.

In our gospel today, our Lord says, “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 of afraid.”

A question I ask each of us to ask ourselves: does Christ’s peace abide in me? Again, our Lord said, “Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” In other words, the world can’t give us this peace; neither can it take it away.

If Christ’s peace does abide in you and me, then nothing in the world can ever take this peace away. No matter what our neighbors, friends, enemies, spouses, children, parents, co-workers, supervisors, subordinates, or any others might do or say, they can’t take that peace away, because the peace that Christ offers doesn’t come from them. It comes from Jesus. If our peace is disturbed by others, then it was never Christ’s peace to begin with.

Yes, couples can become upset with one another at times, and they can bicker and argue, but still be at peace with one another at a very deep level. The disciple of Christ can also be upset at times, and bicker and argue with the Lord, and also still be at peace at one’s depths.

[Shared a personal anecdote]

Just as a storm can create great waves on an ocean’s surface, while leaving the depths in perfect stillness, the same is true with the disciple. Life’s burdens might cause surface waves, but the peace of Christ remains unshakeable in its depths, to the point where not even this [gesturing to the Crucifix]—treatment like this—can take away the peace of Christ from the disciple. Beneath the anguish of any torture, the martyr’s death is a peace-filled one.

How do we experience this peace? I’m going to fast-forward to the end and mention simply that, Christ’s peace comes to us through the sacraments, and cultivating a life that allows us to receive the sacraments. Just as the peace between a couple grows through continued experiences with one another, the peace of Christ grows within us through our continued experiences with the sacraments, ultimately in the Eucharist. The sacraments are the place of encounter with Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is Jesus Christ himself. The greater the love for the Eucharist, the greater the peace that abides with the disciple.

[1] Phil. 4:11b – 13.


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