But this is not the kind of peace that Jesus has come to offer us. The peace we just mentioned is the peace of the world. The peace of Christ is very different. It does not mean that we will be free of troubles, problems, challenges and difficulties. It does not mean that we can rest, do nothing and be free from all responsibilities of life. Peace is not retirement from work and from life. Peace is not escapism from the world of real life.
On the contrary, peace comes from a greater commitment to our work and responsibilities. Peace comes from continuing the mission of Christ to proclaim the Good News to all, like St Paul and Barnabas. Peace comes from saying ‘Yes’ to Jesus. Indeed, this was the peace of Paul. His conscience was clear. His life was so full of hazardous events. But he never stopped fulfilling the mission entrusted to him. Even when he faced so many enemies wherever he went, he did not give up his responsibility of proclaiming Christ to the people. He was totally focused. It is hard to believe that he was stoned almost to death and yet “he stood up and went back to the town.” St Paul was not afraid of death or of his enemies. He was willing to face death and suffering. By overcoming the fear of death and suffering, he was fearless in proclaiming the Good News, for nothing could hinder him. Without wasting any time, the next day, he continued his journey to preach the Good News elsewhere. There was no time to lament, to moan or to complain. Such was the peace that St Paul experienced. A peace that came from doing God’s will in proclaiming the Good News to all.
Peace comes from surrendering our work and mission to the Lord. We read that “In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.” Wherever they went, they would commend what they intended to accomplish to the grace of God. We should not be too concerned whether our ministry is successful or not, whether it bears fruit or otherwise. Success is the work of God and His grace. Our task is to do our best in the ministry and be faithful to our vocation. So long as we seek to do our best, we should be contented to entrust the work we do to God. If He wants to bless our work and ministry, we are grateful. But even if He does not, we trust in His divine wisdom and plan for us. Paul never thought that any accomplishment was due to their hard work alone but he knew that he was just a servant of God. It is the Lord who accomplishes His plan in and through us.
Peace comes from knowing that the Lord is helping us to fulfill His mission well. “On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans. They stayed there with the disciples for some time.” The great joy of a priest and for anyone of us is to feel that we have made a difference in the lives of others. This peace of knowing that we have done our part and fulfilled our duty and responsibility to our loved ones and those entrusted to us should bring us great satisfaction. This is a peace that is the consequence of overcoming all the trials of life. It is a peace that comes from the conquest of evil and falsehood.
Peace comes from loving the Father unto death. This was the peace of Jesus. Jesus told the disciples, “I have told you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen you may believe. I shall not talk with you any longer, because the prince of this world is on his way. He has no power over me, but the world must be brought to know that I love the Father and that I am doing exactly what the Father told me.” Jesus at the last supper was prophesying about His imminent death. He knew that the power of evil would manifest itself and apparently win the victory over Him. But Jesus was very confident that His Father would vindicate Him. Jesus refused to submit to the power of evil and the temptations of the Evil One. He withstood the temptations of the Devil and overcame sin by dying on the cross. By so doing, He revealed His utter love for the Father by His total obedience to His will.
Peace comes from the assurance of the future. “They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’” St Paul never gave false hope when inviting them to become Christians. There are some Catholics who invite others to become Christians or to join some church organization or ministry, but fail to forewarn them of the challenges and trials ahead of them. So like Jesus, St Paul was outrightly honest about the trials of the Christians. But in the same breath, he offered hope. He did not talk about the sufferings but he focused on the future of what was to come. If we suffer only for the present, we feel discouraged. But the sufferings we are going through is to prepare us for the future. For the sake of the future, we can tolerate the sufferings of the present. We follow “Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2)
So the peace that comes is for the greater good of the certain future that is promised to us. This was what St Peter wrote to the Christians as well. “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pt 1:6-9) That is why we should be happy when our loved ones, like Jesus, have to return to the Father. Jesus said, “If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father.” So too if we love our loved ones, when the time comes for them to return Home, we should not prevent them from doing so simply because we want them for ourselves. We should not prevent them from entering into the fullness of their rest and reward. We will miss them, just like the apostles. But it is important that they find their ultimate rest in the bosom of the Lord.
Most of all, peace comes from the assurance of His presence in our midst. Jesus told the disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return. If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” We never suffer alone. A Christian does not need to suffer alone because the Father is with him in His Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is giving us the Holy Spirit to be with us so that He can lead us to the fullness of truth and life. To know that the Lord is with us, we can overcome all trials and all difficulties. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:37-39) Let us therefore find our peace in Christ’s love and His presence in us in the Holy Spirit.