The peace that stays with us

14 August, 2022 20th Sunday Year C

Bearing in mind that Luke begins his gospel with stories surrounding the birth of Jesus and the angels joyfully singing – Glory to God in the highest heaven, and PEACE to people who enjoy his favour – it is not unreasonable for us to answer the Lord’s question with “Yes”.

So, how do we cope with today’s uncomfortable gospel and the other texts in the liturgy this Sunday, which do not make for easy reading? The short answer is with “difficulty”. The longer answer calls for a little reflection on the world into which Jesus was born and the world which persists to this day: a world in which there is so much violence and division, a great deal of which we feel helpless to influence, let alone resolve.

Luke provides the context for telling us about Jesus’ comments: he is aware of his impending Passion and goes on to remind the people that while they have learnt how to provide weather forecasts, they are not so clever when it comes to resolving their problems and disputes. How often in recent years have we bemoaned our lot as we have battled with the challenges of COVID-19 or the global fall-out from the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the associated threats of further divisions and conflicts across the world?

Suffering and evil are part of the human story from the very beginning, so how do we deal with this paradox?

Firstly, we should never isolate passages of Scripture, but seek to understand the whole gospel message. In his gospel, John also quotes Jesus on this subject: “Peace I leave to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.” Therein, I suggest, lies the key. Peace is God’s gift to us and, just as for Jesus, it does not do away with suffering and death, it enables us to overcome them.

The tragedy of human history is that we have sought to manufacture peace by compromising our integrity. Jesus warns us this is doomed to failure and that we may even have to suffer breakdowns in our relationships with those who are closest to us if we are to experience his peace.

In conclusion, I suggest you note the example of Pope Francis: he has met with division and opposition throughout his life. He continues to agonise over the divisions in the Church and across the world. However, he invites us not to give up on loving and never to tire of being tenderly compassionate and forgiving.

On the night he was elected, he asked for some quiet time to ponder and pray. Later he would share with us the wonderful experience of peace that came upon him before he went out to give his blessing to the city of Rome and the world. He says that peace has never left him. May you and I experience the same.

Timothy J Buckley CSsR

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