The Peace of Christ

In yesterday's Gospel (John 14: 27-31a), Jesus, in the context of his farewell address during the Last Supper, 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 or afraid."  With this Gospel in mind, the focus for Relevant Radio's "Inner Life" show, for which I was the guest spiritual director, was on "Attaining Peace in our Lives." 

We often think of peace as a feeling or as the absence of conflict and stress.  This isn't the kind of peace Jesus promised.  Recall the other words of Jesus: "Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division" (Luke 12: 51). 

The Hebrew word for peace--"Shalom"--can help us understand what appear to be two contradictory statements.  According to scholars, "Shalom" is a term that is difficult to translate with just one English word.  It is much richer than simply "peace."  It has to do with the harmony that comes from right relationships.  It has to do with order. 

When our relationship with God is rightly ordered and in harmony, then, no matter what else is going on, we can find peace.  Peace is not so much "out there" but "in here," "within."  Being in harmony with God will lead to rejection and conflict in the world which, according to Jesus, has Satan as its ruler (see John 12: 31; 14: 30; 16: 11).  Jesus promised at the Last Supper that here in the world there will always be trouble, but peace can be found in him: "I have told you this so that you might have peace in me.  In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world" (John 16: 33). 

No matter what is going on around us, we need to strive for inner peace.  Satan hates this peace and will do everything to take it away, for when we are not at peace within ourselves, we are more vulnerable to his other temptations.  The following quotes from Fr. Jacques Philippe's little book "Searching for and Maintaining Peace" make this clear.

"The devil does his utmost to banish peace from one's heart, because he knows that God abides in peace and it is in peace that He accomplishes great things." [Dom Lorenzo Scupoli's "The Spiritual Combat"]

"None of the thoughts that render us anxious and agitated in spirit in any way come from God, Who is the Prince of Peace.  These are the temptations of the enemy and consequently one must reject them and not take them into account." [St. Francis de Sales' "Letter to the Abbess de Puy d'Orbe"]

"Peace is order, it is harmony in each one of us, it is a continual joy that is born in witnessing a clear conscience, it is the holy joy of a heart wherein God reigns.  Peace is the way to perfection, or, even better, in peace dwells perfection.  And the devil, who knows all this very well, does everything possible to cause us to lose our peace." [St. Padre Pio]