5/5/13, I Give You Peace

15:1-2, 22-29, Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23, John 14:23-29 

Have we not in the past several weeks experienced the most exquisite springtime EVER?  The blue, blue skies, the fragrant and abundant blossoms, the warmth of the air… I don’t know about you, but there is something in me that has just felt set free these days.  It’s a feeling I have desired for a long time and suddenly, without my asking, it’s just HERE.  In the words of our Buddhist friends, perhaps it’s finally a movement into what they would call enlightenment. This internet checklist offered me a good test for this strange feeling of euphoria.  Perhaps you’d like to check it out for yourself.

HOW ENLIGHTENED ARE YOU?

If you can live without caffeine,

If you can be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,

If you can resist complaining,

If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,

If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,

If you can ignore a friend's limited education and never correct him or her,

If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,

If you can face the world without lies and deceit,

If you can conquer tension without medical help,

If you can relax without liquor,

If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

If you can honestly say that deep in your heart you have no prejudice against creed, color, religion, gender preference, or politics,

--Then you have almost reached the same level of spiritual development as your dog!

What, you may ask, does this have to do with the Gospel lesson from today?

Well, frankly, I don’t know, but I really wanted to offer you that story because today, we are celebrating the simple joy of life as it comes to us just as it comes to happily enthusiastic dogs!   

We are celebrating the goodness of developing gifts of music and offering them to the community. We are celebrating the joy of laughter as an antidote to the seriousness of life.  We are celebrating simply being together and encouraging one another as we discover freedom to explore our spirituality outside of the rigid boundaries of religion that have held us in the past.  We are celebrating our growing recognition of the Spirit of Jesus alive in all of Creation.

Seriously, the connection I made when I read those lines about enlightenment was to wonder about the sense of peace that we see in animals.  They just seem to have a “let-it-be” quality to living out their lives, a yieldedness to the moment and to the circumstances, which are not always good or comfortable circumstances.  They don’t argue with what they have been made to be.  They pass through a brief space of time in this world fulfilling whatever is their unique purpose as an expression of energy in the grand cycles of the universe.  Having not yet reached an evolutionary level of what humans call “consciousness,” they aren’t burdened with the worries that humans wrestle with… the anxieties that we would call “lack of peace.”

Today our gospel lesson is a small portion of the teaching that Jesus gave to his disciples on the night of the final Passover Meal.  “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.”  This statement made by Jesus is woven into the liturgy of every Mass.  Listen for it! Jesus offered his disciples a GIFT of peace.   And he said it was not the kind of peace the world gives.  It’s not a peace based on having acquired position or possessions or power.  Rather, it is a peace based on maintaining a heart that is untroubled and unafraid regardless of the circumstances. 

Notice that just before Jesus offers his disciples this gift of peace, he announces that he will be sending the Spirit to indwell them, to teach them all things and to remind them of what they had learned from Christ.  Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you …” (John 14:17)

Peace is a gift.  When someone offers you a gift, you have the choice to either take it or refuse it.  Or you can accept it, but then put it on the shelf and never use it.

Choosing to use that gift of peace is up to you.  Just as you’d probably be happy to accept and use a gift of a million dollars to live a good life, you can do the same with peace, love and joy. Remind yourself moment by moment if necessary, “I have peace. Jesus gives me peace that is not like that the world offers, and I’m not letting go of it.” Brea-a-a-the! Breathe in peace!

With the gift of peace, Jesus gives an instruction to keeping the peace that has been given from slipping away.  The key is “Let not your heart be troubled or afraid.”   Fear – either real or imagined- ties us up in knots. It fosters worry.  Worry borrows tomorrow’s troubles today, stealing our peace.

This is not to deny that there will be real situations of stress and grief and suffering in life.  In the very next chapter of John, as Jesus concludes all his remarks about how he will soon be leaving them, he says, “I have told you all this that in me you might find peace.  In the world you will have trouble but take courage! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Keeping the peace given to us by the Spirit is a daily challenge. We can help each other hold on to peace in community by sharing our support for one another in practical ways, sharing our sense of humor and sharing the spiritual gifts that we have.  In every Mass we are reminded that Jesus said to his disciples, “I give you peace.”  And then we are invited to offer one another a sign of peace.  When times are tough, we can hold one another close so that fear is held at bay. We can team up in sharing the peace, love, joy and resources we have in service to the broader community around us.  Just as the seeds planted in the springtime bring forth fruit and flowers in the autumn, the peace we plant within ourselves and sow on behalf of others and will return as a harvest of joy and peace. 

By Sandi DeMaster