Homily for May 24, Tuesday of the V week of Easter
I tried to record this during Mass for a podcast, but I was celebrating Mass at a chapel next to an intersection and near a fire station. There was a loud car accident at the intersection during the homily (no one was hurt), and then the sirens went off at the fire station calling the first responders, so the homily was much interrupted… so, no podcast today.
Every day at Mass, before the sign of peace, we remember that Jesus said to His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.” Today we hear that phrase in its original context in the Gospel, when the Lord is speaking to His disciples shortly before His Passion. He follows it up, saying, “Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
These additional phrases are important, as the Apostles quickly learned. When Christ speaks of giving His followers peace, He didn’t mean that they would have an easy life or that they would not run up against violent persecution. Jesus meant something else, something more fundamental and profound. We can see that St Paul and the other Apostles understood this, because after being stoned nearly to death, Paul says, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.”
In other words, the peace promised by Christ is the internal peace of knowing that, if we do our best to keep Christ’s commandment of love, we will rejoice with Him forever in His heavenly kingdom. It’s not a promise that we won’t suffer, but rather that our inevitable suffering can bear fruit united to the sufferings of Christ and thus can be given a positive meaning.
This is true especially of persecution directly related to our faith, like that suffered by the Apostles, but not solely: it is also true of our daily sufferings caused by health problems or difficult circumstances. As members of the Body of Christ who share in the Lord’s priesthood, we can offer to God all of our aches, pains, frustrations, setbacks, and heartaches as a participation in the Lord’s redeeming passion and death. No matter what happens to us in this life, if we remain united to Christ, we should never “let [our] hearts be troubled or afraid.”
On one hand, these words of Christ are not always easy to live. Sometimes people face terrible suffering and grief, and it can be hard to keep our spiritual peace. It is with good reason that every Mass we pray, “deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day… protect us from all anxiety”.
On the other hand, when we face adversity from the perspective of the faith, it is a great gift. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the only thing that can give true peace, strength and meaning to every circumstance in our lives. That is a gift we need to share. And so we join our voices to today’s psalm, saying, “may my mouth speak the praise of the Lord, and may all flesh bless His holy Name forever and ever.”