In the First Reading from today’s Mass, Paul and Barnabas state, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22). Considering that the previous day Paul was stoned and left for dead, he ought to know! Contrast that with Jesus statement in today’s Gospel where He says “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (Jn 14:27). How do you think St. Paul feels about that statement after he was stoned?
I haven’t spoken with him directly, but I’m sure Paul would have no problem with the words of Our Lord. In his letter to the Philippians , Paul states “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4-7). I know what you’re thinking…Maybe he was having a good day when he said that. In actuality, Paul was in prison when he composed that letter! Ok…what’s the deal?
The “deal” is that Christ provides a unique brand of peace to His followers; a peace that does not depend on external circumstances. The Lord’s peace can be felt whether you are in the midst of unemployment, sickness or on a relaxing vacation. It is a peace that transcends all worldly events. How is it that we don’t feel peaceful in the midst of turmoil, even if we are followers of Christ? Most often, it’s because we don’t trust Him. We are so busy rebelling against His will that we don’t allow His peace to infiltrate our hearts.
Twelve years ago my twin daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, were not expected to be born alive. It was very hard for my wife and I not to worry as we pursued various treatment options designed to save their lives. When the doctors just about ran out of ideas, they suggested a potential “last ditch” treatment that may have resulted in the death of one or both girls. After praying about it for a few days, we decided to forego this risky course of action and trust in the healing power of God. When we informed the doctors of our decision, we immediately felt a sense of peace come over us. It appeared as if the doctors felt it as well. It turns out that this was a good move, as The Lord allowed the girls to be born shortly thereafter. Today they are beautiful, healthy children.
To this day, that was one of the most tumultuous, yet peaceful, times of my life. I was truly able to trust in God, although common sense told me otherwise. If any of you are going through a difficult time, I urge you to cling to the words of Our Lord when He said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid”. Ask Him to increase your trust and to send His peace to calm your fears. It really works if you give it a try!