A spiritual writer named Henri Nouwen was quite popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Perhaps he is not so popular now. Many people I suspect are not familiar with the name, even though his works are still available. Anyway, he quoted Matthew, chapter 10 where Jesus is giving an assignment to his disciples to minister in various towns, and when they would visit any home they ought to salute it. If the occupants are deserving, God’s peace would remain on it. If they were not deserving, this peace would return to the apostles who visited. Henri Nouwen plays off this quote by Matthew and relates it to us today. He says that we should not let anybody steal our peace. Rather, we should maintain it . I suppose that implicit to his suggestion is the added on concept, “as best we can.”
It’s important. Christ says that He gives us His Peace, just not as the world gives it. Whenever we celebrate the Mass together and pray the Our Father, the celebrant blesses everyone with the peace of the Lord, and invites those in attendance to share that peace with each other. The Sign of Peace!
Shouldn’t we conclude from the above examples alone that we ought to inculcate an attitude of Peace? And not limit it to the Mass, but rather inculcate it in everyday life? It is the principle lens through which we ought to see the world. View the world! Understand how we ought to help the world!
Pope Francis has placed an emphasis on helping the poor. The poor, of course, refers to those in need, and that can be anybody. Yes, it can be a street person, and most people think along those lines when trying to wrap their minds around what the Pope is saying. But in truth the poor can refer to anybody. It can be the person seated right next to you in the pew during Mass. It can be your neighbor. Don’t be fooled by how big the house is, or by how many cars are in the garage. The needy can be anybody.
How can I help anybody who is in need? Sounds like a tall order. Initially it is, or better stated, it certainly looks that way. But it can be done. By attending Mass and frequenting Sacraments, by doing spiritual reading and the like, by praying in whatever way I am drawn, we begin to feel the very peace of God. It becomes more real. God’s Word can nourish us this way. Experiencing God’s Peace, we find that we are expanding our availability.
Feeling my own sense of peace (the peace of the world) comes from serving my own needs and this decreases my availability. I’m too self-absorbed. All that I can ever see here is me and my own wants and desires. All that I can see is my own ego, as it were, and what it wants. That peace is fragile and does not last. Sadly it may be all that we know, severely limiting our understating of what Christ is saying. But the main idea here is to remember that Christ says that He does not give peace as the world gives it. Isn’t that true? He gives us His Peace instead and that allows us to see the needs of others. And this “seeing” is precisely what expands our availability.
“The Peace of the Lord be with you always! And with your Spirit. Offer to each other the sign of Peace” Amen!
Peace & Blessings, Fr. Walt