Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.
Don’t we yearn for this right now?
In a world beset with conflict and division, pandemic and sorrow, is it not tempting to give up on finding peace?
Maybe we are looking in the wrong place for peace.
In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we learn that, even in the early church, there was dissension caused by the spread of misinformation by unauthorized messengers.
In response to this, Paul sent his trusted messengers to allay the concerns of the Gentiles who were anxious about whether they needed to follow Jewish law in order to be followers of Christ. Specifically, the men were worried about whether they needed to be circumcised. Paul was clear though that the message he was sending came through the Holy Spirit, God’s presence among them.
In our parish last year the liturgy committee decided on a theme for the year, “It is good that we are here”. As we pondered that statement, we wondered what the congregation might think. After all we were in the midst of a pandemic.
We know that times were also very treacherous for the early Christians. Daily they were threatened with persecution. Those threats consumed their daily thoughts and activities and yet was it not good that they were there?
God did not promise any of us a smooth road. Maybe it is in times of deep discord and peril that the beauty of Christ’s teaching can best be seen.
Following on last year’s theme, this year our liturgy committee chose as our theme, “It is good that God is here”. While we also can find a challenge in believing that to be true in the midst of turmoil, it is just this fact that brings us hope and comfort.
In today’s gospel message, Jesus tells the apostles that he will be leaving soon. That doesn’t sound very comforting.
How terrifying that must have been for His apostles. After all, they had been with Him day and night for the previous three years. They ate with Him, they laughed with Him, they prayed with Him, they probably even danced with Him. They grew to know Him and to love Him, this Messiah for whom their ancestors had been waiting for generations. He had been their teacher in word and deed. I think we have all had the experience of hearing the almost unbearable news that we were going to lose a loved one, a friend, a mentor. How, we wonder can we go on? How can we continue their legacy? For all its intensity, 3 years is not a significant part of a lifetime and the apostles were expected to spread his good news far and wide? They were to build his church? These were fishermen, tax collectors, craftsmen, and not necessarily the most educated bunch. These were men and women who repeatedly erred even to the point of denying knowing Jesus immediately prior to His death.
Still there is some comfort in this same gospel passage. Jesus reminded the apostles that He would return soon. More importantly He, as with our loved ones and friends, would always be with them and us in what they had permanently implanted in our hearts and souls.
It is good that God is here.
Jesus further said to his disciples:
“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”
How many of us start our day with the prayer that goes something like this, “My God, I offer you all my thoughts, words and deeds of this day”? I know that at times I have considered saying this to be justification for how I lived God’s word and prayed unceasingly as Paul urged us to do.
At the end of some days, though, I wonder how many of those thoughts, words, and deeds I am proud of. I, like the apostles, fail to preach the gospel through my actions. I do find comfort though in believing that God has been by my side throughout the day and still loves me. Amazing!
I also take comfort in the words of Richard Rohr, when he says, “For Jesus, prayer seems to be a matter of waiting in love. Prayer isn’t primarily words; it’s primarily an attitude, a stance, a modus operandi.” We can pray unceasingly and live the gospel if we find sustenance in remembering that we are engulfed in God’s loving embrace. In that embrace we can find the peace he gives and that we so desire.
It is good that God is here.
M. Patricia Ball, M.S.R.N
M. Patricia Ball, M.S.R.N
M. Patricia Ball, M.S.R.N. was born and raised and continues to reside in Baltimore, Maryland. All of her education through college and graduate school was in Catholic institutions. She entered the School Sisters of Notre Dame after high school, but left at the end of her novitiate year to pursue other career paths of service. After receiving an MS in Counseling, Patricia worked for several years with children and adolescents with severe mental health problems. She pursued a nursing degree intent on earning credentials to better serve those with severe mental health issues and has been a practicing psychiatric nurse since 1983. Her current professional work is in the area of research into treatments for Schizophrenia and she has published in this area. Throughout her adult life, M. Patricia has been active in church ministry, serving early on as a music minister and cantor. Since college she has also been active in advocating for social justice issues both in the church and the community. For the past 45 years she has been an active member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Baltimore, an intentional community committed to being inclusive and active in issues of social justiceand the workof Vatican II. She currently serves as a lector, liturgy planner, Eucharistic minister, and on the Committee on Church Reform. As part of her work for church reform, Patricia joined Discerning Deacons and has been active with them since its inception. She also serves as a hospice volunteer.
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