New York, St. Margaret, 19th August 2007
Dear Friends in Faith.
That seems to be a contradiction!
Jesus is saying in today’s gospel: Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. But in another place of the gospel, Jesus says: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
It’s a contradiction! Isn’t it? Is Jesus going to give a peace or rather division? Can we say with honesty that we are religion of peace?
1. First of all, we have to notice a little difference between two quotations of Jesus. In today’s gospel, Jesus is speaking about peace on the earth. In another place he speaks about peace that he leaves with the apostles: “Peace I give to you”. What more! Jesus adds: “Not as the world gives do I give it to you.”
We can say: Jesus gives peace. That’s true. But his peace is peace for us, not peace on the earth. That’s a point of departure for our question. And a point of arrival is: If we believe in Christ we have peace in our heart, we are peaceful, we are not afraid. It doesn’t mean that around us is peaceful and there is no war.
2. The first reading is a good example for the question of peace. It was about 600 years B.C. The king of Babylon laid siege to Jerusalem. Prophet Jeremiah was convinced: it doesn’t make sense to put up any resistance, because God has just decided to deliver over this city to king of Babylon. Jeremiah was speaking to the all the people: Thus says the LORD: This city shall certainly be handed over to the army of the king of Babylon; he shall capture it.
The king and the princes of Jerusalem didn’t believe these words. Jeremiah was calm, he had peace in his heart, because he knew the truth, but the peace of Jeremiah wasn’t the peace of the princes of Jerusalem. They put him in a cistern. The peace of the prophet didn’t cause peace in the city. On the contrary! His words brought a division and a confusion, but not because the prophet was wrong, but because the rulers didn’t want to believe in the words of God.
3. But maybe we don’t have to come back to the first reading to understand the problem of the peace. Let us think in a practical way!
If I believe in Christ, and if I want to put into practice all his commandments, I have peace in my heart. I’m sure that my life has a deep sense. I am glad that somebody loves me and he leads me not only here, but also after my death. But if the people with whom I live don’t have the same faith, it will cause some divisions and tensions.
For instance, if I don’t want to use contraceptive pills and my wife doesn’t have the same opinion, it will cause maybe not only a division but even a war. If I give up, I will have no peace in my heart, because I want to keep commandments. If I not give up I will have peace in my heart but surely not in my home.
If I know that a Sunday mass is very important to me and it’s impossible to be a good Christian without the Church, I go to church. But if my friends want to make an excursion into the country, just on Sunday, it complicates the question. I can go with them but if I want to be a Christian, I will have no peace in my heart. If I will not go, maybe I will loose my friends. The peace of the Christ sometimes is impossible to reconcile with the peace of this world.
The last example. If I want to be honest with the teaching of the Catholic Church, I have to say, that everybody who didn’t go to church for the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Mary, it means last Tuesday evening or last Wednesday, he committed a mortal sin, because this feast was obligatory for people who could come. But if I tell it, people can be against me. Somebody can say: What do you want from us? Come back to your country!” But If I want to have the peace of Christ in my heart and If I want to be faithful to the teaching of the Catholic Church I have to add: What more! If somebody didn’t go to church for the feast of the Assumption and if he didn’t confess this sin, he must not receive the Holy Communion, because Saint Paul says: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” But If I tell it, I’m sure that somebody will have less peace after this mass than he had it before he came in the church.
These were just 3 instances. Maybe to hard, but I hope these instances are very clear to understand that if we want to be faithful to Christ we will have peace in our heart, but if we live with the people who don’t have the same faith, we have to be ready to face divisions and tensions.
Our religion is a religion of peace but not a religion of a pacifism. We don’t want to hurt anybody. We don’t want to exclude anybody. We want to live in peace with everybody. But we know, if we want to be honest with Christ, we have to be ready to live in a divided house and in the world full of tension.