Tuesday Fifth Week of Easter 2011 Peace the World Cannot Give

Mass readings for today are here

Gospel John 14: 27-31
Jesus said to his disciples:
“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.

You heard me tell you,
‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’

If you loved me,
you would rejoice that I am going to the Father;
for the Father is greater than I.

And now I have told you this before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe.

I will no longer speak much with you,
for the ruler of the world is coming.

He has no power over me,
but the world must know that I love the Father
and that I do just as the Father has commanded me.”


“Peace does not depend on our circumstances, but in our willingness to allow God to use the events of our lives to create a dependence on Him” –Henri Nouwen.

That type of willingness to surrender our plans is difficult and even harder trying to live continuously in the present moment of God's plans that often differ markedly from my own.
I tend to be self sufficient but it is often only in those moments of complete and utter helplessness and chaos that I come to realise that God is sufficient. 

Even in the turmoil of a world that is not at peace or that gives only temporary respite the inner peace God gives is enough and no it often will not alter the situation but yes, it does transcend circumstances. 

The peace that Jesus is talking about in the gospel comes as He faces His crucifixion, so He does not mean the peace and  contentment of a smooth and worriless carefree life. 

His peace is not about the physical conditions of life but a particular imagination and a vision of how life is supposed to operate when lived in the heart of God given in the gift of peace from the Holy Spirit.

I don’t believe Jesus was saying the world itself is bad :- what we know about His brief life on earth was testament to his total immersion in all that was good about life.

He was talking about what is "worldly."

The worldly vision of peace that speaks only “success,” making it so as to manage and control life to make it comfortable and stable and we hope we will be happy .
But as we learn the skills of a particular job or career what are we able to learn from our lives that make us become more genuinely human ?  

As the saying goes, "We can get all A star grades in our exams but still flunk life."

Where do we learn not only how to make a living, but how to live and walk in the jagged anguish and messy complexity that life throws at us to trip us up on the stony path of our journey ?

Thomas Merton had the following to say about university education: “If you have learned only how to be a success, your life has probably been wasted."

If a university concentrates on producing successful people, it is lamentably failing in its obligation to society and to the students themselves.”  

It's vital to learn all we can to bring our gifts and talents to the table. 

The world is an endless black hole of misery and suffering and whatever gifts we have, the world needs them badly. 

But when the peace that the "worldly" gives is a Promethean struggle to be successful in the eyes of a world that at most regards people as nothing more than utilitarian instruments then there is real violence operative in a world like that.

 Nick Baines said in his opening sermon as Anglican Bishop of Bradford

"Is it inevitable that the powerful always dominate and get their way? 

That the rich and independent should be both secure and happy – especially at the expense of the poor? 
That those who lose or grieve or don’t – what’s that awful phrase? – ‘believe in themselves’ are to be pitied? 

Are those who ‘win’ in life really to be admired and valued? Or is there another way of seeing – another way of thinking and, therefore, living in this world? Jesus suggests there is… and it revolves around himself. (No wonder they nailed him in the end.)

According to these revolutionary words of Jesus, those who have lost everything – health, family, things, hope, prospects, beauty, and so on - have nothing else to fear losing; so, they are liberated to live freely and to take whatever comes their way. 

They don’t need to be told of their need of grace, of redemption or of salvation: they swim in a pool called ‘freedom’ and they are blessed by being free not to have to pretend or to keep up appearances or the empty rhetoric of false glory.

It’s about generosity and giving away and laying down and challenging the values of a world that is bound by its own insecurities, its deep fears, and the violence that instinctively erupts where hope has dissolved into the chaos and void of fatalism and destructiveness."

Maranatha Singers : Peace 

The peace that the world cannot give and that only Jesus CAN  is based on seeing beyond the instrumental value human beings have :

to those people who cannot be rated highly on the usefulness scale : the elderly, disabled, undereducated, imprisoned and unsuccessful.


The world need us to continue to tell the message that spending time producing nothing, accomplishing nothing and trying to align ourselves with unsuccessful ramshackle lives who are the broken body of Christ, teaches us something that the "worldly"cannot give.

The strident pounding voices of relevance, success, efficiency, the beat we dance to, are alive and well in all of us, but sometimes we can stop and pause and try to hear at least a whisper of the Holy Spirit that says something else; - don't give the "worldly" the rhythm all to itself. 

I pray that we can stay connected with the Holy Spirit that tunes us in to that whisper and reminds us of the true peace that is worthy of our lives, and is a peace that the "worldly" can never give.

Thomas Merton writing on the peace of the solitary life ....
"The solitary life is full of paradoxes, the solitary is at peace, but not as the world understands peace, happy but not in the "worldly" sense of a good time, going but unsure of the way, not knowing the way but arriving, arriving but likewise departing.

The solitary possess all riches but of emptiness, embracing interior poverty but not of any possession. 
The solitary has so many riches he cannot see God, so close to God that there is no perspective or object, so swallowed up in God that there is nothing left to see."

"There have always been solitaries who, by virtue of a special purity, and simplicity of heart, have been destined from their earliest youth to an eremitical and contemplative life, in some official form." 

 Image above from Scripture Art

"His solitude is neither an argument, an accusation, a reproach or a sermon. It is simply life itself. It is...it not only does not attract attention, or desire it, but remains, for the most part, completely invisible."

"Do not flee to solitude from the community, find God first in community then He will lead you to solitude." 

"The great work of the solitary life is gratitude. The hermit is one who knows the mercy of God better than others because one's whole life is one of complete dependence, in silence and in hope upon the hidden mercy of our heavenly Father."

Returning to the fundamentals of the spiritual life: the supreme dominion of God, existing for him, realizing that He is everything, and that my life has no other reason than to proclaim that fact. 
What other possible importance can life have than to belong entirely to Him whose will is life, and to belong to whom is life most perfect, if we only give Him everything. 

For He is the life of everything that He entirely possesses. 
Therefore, I give Him my freedom. " ~ Thomas Merton. 

Gospel saxophone and Guitar Jazz street ministry by Greg Kingston and Arun Andrew

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