6th Sunday of Easter: The Peace of the Lord
It was the last course I took before being ordained a priest, ages ago. The course wasn’t in the seminary, it was at Ohio State University, excuse me, The Ohio State University. The course was called something like Inter-professional Dynamics in Crises Management in Health Care. It was really quite interesting. Only 49 people were allowed to be in the course, each one was about to complete preparation for their particular careers. There were 7 about to be nurses, 7 med students, 7 law students, 7 going into hospital administration, 7 going into social work, 7 completing psychology, and 7 preparing for ministry in the Church or Synagogue. Each class was two and a half hours long. It would begin with the presentation of an individual with a serious problem, perhaps dying of cancer, or suffering from some other chronic ailment. After the person’s story was presented, the professional groups would get together to discuss what would be their best approach–the lawyers, and doctors, and nurses, and psychologists, etc. Then the inter-professional groups would meet, groups consisting of one from each profession. It was really interesting. We got to understand how much we use jargon that others might not follow. We also grew in an appreciation for each other’s work.
This did not come easy for some of the people. I remember distinctly the first meeting of the inter-professional group I was assigned to. We had heard the situation of someone who was dying and who had very little family support. Our professional groups had met and now it was time for the different professionals to get together. Naturally, since this was our first meeting, we started with introducing ourselves. I had thought this would have gone smoothly, but when it was a young lady’s turn to speak who was preparing to be a social worker, she looked at me and said, “What’s the witch doctor doing here? He has nothing to offer.” You could have heard a pin drop. Everyone turned to me. Well, I’m not really that good at quick responses, at least not any that I am proud of making. My brain would rather that I write than talk. This was an exception though. I had just spent two years caring for children dying from cancer. I knew the real situations much better than most of the others in the group. So, I simply said, “When the doctor has done his best, and now can only keep the patient comfortable, and when the nurse is torn up because there is little he or she can do, and the administrator is considering how the hospital followed procedures, and the lawyer is concerned with what will happen after the death, and the social worker and psychologist have no programs for a person who is coming in and out of consciousness, you all turn to the priest, minister or rabbi and ask us to care for the patient.” What I didn’t say, and what I should have said was “We can give something that you in your fields cannot provide. We can give the peace of the Lord.”
And the same can be said for the hospice worker who sits with the dying assuring him or her that God is with them. And the same can be said for every person who sees in the Presence of the Lord a peace that is totally different from any concept of peace the world has.
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives peace do I give peace.” When we think of peace we usually consider the cessation of hostilities between warring nations, or even warring members of a family. That is not the peace the Lord gives. The peace of the Lord is the joy we experience when we are united to Him. This is the peace that Jesus felt on the cross when He was united to His Father while His Sacred Body was being tortured to death. This is the peace that the martyrs felt when others brutalized them for refusing to give up Jesus Christ. This is the peace that we all feel when we are mocked for taking our faith, our commitment to the Lord, so seriously that we refuse to join in with the immorality of our particular societies, be that at school, in the neighborhood, or even within the country.
Sometimes I wonder how the mothers and fathers of our parish can remain so calm in the middle of little children pulling on them, and older children needing guidance, along with the stresses of work, caring for the home, etc. How do you do it all, and do it so calmly? Well, calmly at least most of the time. Then I realize: You pray. You are united to Christ. You have to some degree or other, the peace of Christ. It gets you through. He gets you through.
Sometimes I wonder how our young people do it, particularly our young college, high school and even middle school students. You have your courses you need to complete, teams to play on, activities to support, and talents to perfect. And then there is the pressure of relationships, the biggest pressure you have. There is the pressure of having friends without getting involved with substance abuse. There is the pressure of having a girlfriend or boyfriend without crossing the line into immoral behavior. There is the pressure of being mocked because you don’t go along with what some say, incorrectly, that everyone is doing. But you remain committed to Jesus Christ. You go about your lives calmly, and with peace. Your union with Christ gives you the peace you need to do all things well, happily and with the joy of the Lord.
There is a wonderful mystery of our lives that the immoral world will never understand: Saying “Yes” to Christ does not make every day a Good Friday. Saying “Yes” to Christ makes every day an Easter Sunday.
Our friends, our neighbors, the members of our families, come to us with their problems, their needs, their fears. Why? Because they want us to share our peace with them. They want us to share with them the Peace of Christ. We would like to solve other people’s problems. We would like to make their pain go away. But, very often, we cannot do either. We can do something far greater, though. We can encourage them to be united to the Lord and trust in Him. We can offer them the peace that has been given to us, the Peace of the Lord.
And this why Christ came: to replace chaos with calm, hatred with love, and turmoil with peace. Union with Jesus puts all the difficulties of the world, including our personal worlds, into perspective. The great Jamie Kelleher, a fifteen year old in the last stages of leukemia, said to me back in those days just before my ordination, “I have lost everything. My friends are too far away to visit. I have lost my privacy. People just walk into my room without even knocking. I can’t do school work. I am too weak to move. I have lost everything. But no one can take Jesus from me.” Jamie had the peace of Christ.
May the Peace of Christ be with you all, always.