Summary: God gives us peace unlike the peace of the world, and it is founded on the rock of Calvary.
You may recall a few weeks ago in the Sunday paper magazine insert, USA Weekend, there was an article discussing how “spiritual” we have become, and how irrelevant religion is. The article title was “When the spirit moves you,” and the cover had this plug, “You may be closer to God than you think.” Yes, indeed, you may. The world is happy to have a people who are “spiritual” but not “religious.” The world believes in a God that is not exclusive. But there is only one way to Him, one truth about him, one life in Him. And no matter what claims the world makes, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and no amount of finagling or coercion will alter who he is and what he expects of us. “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy” (Lev. 19:2).
In today’s Gospel, Christ looks from before his passion, through the cross, to his victory. He calls us to obey even while preparing to show his own radical obedience to the Father. He said he and the Father “will come to [us] and make [their] home in us,” even as he readied for his departure, and he gave us peace. The peace of Christ is founded on the rock of Calvary.
God has given us true peace so that we can serve him and sanctify the world. Christ said, “I do not give to you as the world gives.” The peace we need is not the world’s peace. The world says: “Ever faster! Even more hectic. Find purpose in busyness. Seek meaning in sex, alcohol, travel, rest, work, and, yes, even family. If your mind is troubled, medicate! If your heart is empty despite filling it with ‘stuff’, pile in more ‘stuff’. Don’t stop to examine the deep things. Don’t ask the hard questions. If science can’t answer your questions, they’re not real.” This is the peace we find in the world.
The world’s peace is an armistice, the absence of hostility, cessation from warring, supremacy of one power over another—but never the end of war. The US has been at “peace” with China, but what does that mean? That we don’t send troops today? What of tomorrow? God’s peace is different; he doesn’t give as the world gives. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians:
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two [i.e., Jew and Gentile] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility” (Eph. 2:13–16).
Peace God’s way puts hostility to death. It beats swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks (cf. Is. 2:4). God’s peace reconciles differences, not by domination of one force over another, but by adherence to the one truth.
God’s peace is magnificent. “No longer will there be any curse… They will see his face, and his name will be on their forehead. There will be no more night” (Rev. 22:3,4,5). The curse is gone, done, rendered impotent! The serpent’s fangs have been torn out, his head cut off. No longer shall original sin burden man from generation to generation. The graces God gave man before the fall will be restored. The land shall yield its fruit without toil and sweat. And we shall see God’s face, not merely an apparition or his back, but God, as he is. We shall not see “a poor reflection as in a mirror. The veil shall be lifted from us.
Christ’s peace does not rid our lives of troubles, but it does keep us from being troubled. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33). And Paul writes to the Romans: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). In Christ, there is sanctification of our suffering; there is vindication in our troubles. In CS Lewis’ masterpiece, The Great Divorce, as the author converses with his guide in the Valley of the Shadow of Life, he learns how we cannot always see rightly what we now experience:
“The Saved…what happens to them is best described as the opposite of a mirage. What seemed, when they entered it, to be the vale of misery turns out, when they look back, to have been a well; and where present experience saw only salt deserts, memory truthfully records that the pools were full of water.”