By Sister Sharon Havelak, OSF
The woman was very insistent. Jesus had to come back. There was no peace in the world, she said, so Jesus had to come again to bring us peace.
The incident happened during a prayer service for peace, which at the time we were holding monthly. I had asked the group to share with each other in small groups about their hope for peace. The only response I could give the woman at the time was that Jesus had already come, had given us the gift of peace. It’s up to us to accept it and make it a reality in our lives. Then we can help make it a reality in our world. The woman didn’t think that was good enough.
I think of the interchange often during the Easter season, when we hear the insistent refrain throughout the Gospels: “Peace be with you!,” “My peace I give you.” Over and over, the resurrected Jesus consoles and encourages his disciples with his gift of peace. It’s our gift, too.
Every year, as I read the Gospels, peace seems farther and farther away. This year it’s ISIS, the debate over Iran’s nuclear program, the killing of Christians in Kenya, the on-going tension between Israel and Palestine, the continuing problems in Iraq and Afghanistan, Syria and Africa, religious fundamentalism, and ugly incidents of racism, sexism and genderism here in the US and around the world. The list could go on and on.
It’s tempting to wonder about this gift of peace. Where is it? Was it for one time only? But, then, why does Jesus mention it so many times?
My suspicion is that this elusive gift is closer than we think, hidden in the most improbable place. Within. The resurrected Jesus is, indeed, present with us, as his Spirit and his peace. But the gift is not magic; it’s grace. And we’re the ones who need to put it into practice in our lives and in our world. Perhaps the Buddhist monk, Thích Nhất Hạnh, has said it best:
Our true home is in the present moment.
To live in the present moment is a miracle.
The miracle is not to walk on water.
The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment,
to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now.
Peace is all around us—
in the world and in nature—
and within us—
in our bodies and our spirits.
Once we learn to touch this peace,
we will be healed and transformed.
It is not a matter of faith;
it is a matter of practice.
Hanh, T. N. in Roberts, E., & Amidon, E., Eds. (1996). Life prayers from around the world: 365 prayers, blessings, and affirmations to celebrate the human journey. NY: Harper San Francisco.