St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

An instrument of peace

An instrument of peace. But of true peace.                      –Homily August 14, 2016

 

In the Bible we may find things that are difficult to understand. Jesus says today that he “did not come to bring peace, but division”. Some people, in reading these and other passages like this, dismiss the Bible and say that it doesn’t make sense. That is easy: in that way, you get rid of the duties the Bible imposes on us, duties for our good and the good of our neighbour. Other people do something in a certain sense worse: they choose the part of the Bible that makes more sense to them, and dismiss the rest: “Jesus could have never said that.” When those people become  Bible scholars they say that whoever wrote the Bible compiled different sayings and traditions, which do not actually come from the same person: that would explain the “tensions” in the text that we have nowadays. For them, of course, the Bible is not the Word of God, but the word of the community of faith, and I don’t need to upset your stomach today with the idea of God and of faith that those people have. Period.

 

The Bible is the Word of God. God spoke in more obscure ways sometimes, so that we may show our love for him by studying and reflecting on what he said. He enjoys that we think of him, that we spend time in trying to understand what he said. Well, let us try to understand what he says. He didn’t write the Bible to confound us, so there must be a way to understand it. At the same time, he knows that we are not naïve, that is why he does not speak to us as if we were unable to make sense of a figure of speech.

 

Jesus said that he did not come to bring peace, but division. The same Jesus will say: “I leave you peace, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” Important clarification, this will be the point. St. Paul says “He is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14) and the one who makes peace through the blood of his cross in heavenly and earthly things (Cf. Colossians, 1:19-20). So does he bring peace or not? Is he not the Prince of Peace?

 

There are two kinds of peace. Peace is like the unity of hearts. But there is a good peace and a bad peace. If you are in peace with God, and you and your neighbour want what is truly good for both of you, then there is good peace. Good peace is to desire and love what God wants and loves for you and for your neighbour. This unity with God is a gift from God, and is what Jesus came to bring. This peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. This peace unites the hearts of all the faithful with God. But we have also a good peace when we are united with all men and women of good will in the love of good things.

 

There is a peace that is bad. It is the peace that we have with people at the cost of the peace with God. It is the peace we attain with people at the cost of not doing what God wants us to do (peace among thieves for example). It is when we want the same that another person wants, but what we want is not truly good, but it is against the will of God. There is peace between us, but there is no peace between us and God. We all want the same thing, but God does not want what we want: this is not a good peace. This is a bad peace, and Jesus came to break it into pieces, precisely because he came to reconcile all of us with God.

 

Let us try to translate these reflections in concrete actions. What should we do then?

 

·         Remember that it is better to disagree with friends, even relatives, before being in disagreement with God. We do not do a service to our loved ones when we give a bad   example, or when we do not witness to the truth. They will also be judged one day, and if you did not help them to do the right thing, would you be happy about that? Will anyone of those “friends” be there to defend us in the Judgment Day? A disagreement is sometimes what makes the other person grow or reflect. True love does not yield to do wrong because of the beloved, but it always wants for the beloved what is truly good. And that sometimes implies a little bit of suffering. And sometimes the cross.

·         Sometimes we may feel that it is time to “put the sword,” to put division, and to stand strongly in defense of the truth or in the attack of error. Be careful! Ask yourself first: if you are doing it for the good of your neighbour or just for yourself; if you are just venting your anger and your impatience, or you are really trying to do good for your neighbour; if you are just trying to please your “orthodox friends” or your God, no matter what; if this is the right moment to do it, or it may be better to wait; if you are right in what you will say, or you have not yet reflected enough (don’t rush!); if you are not misjudging your brother or sister; etc. Sometimes the slash we want to apply to our brother or sister would be better applied first to ourselves. We can do very bad mistakes when we apply division for selfish or passionate reasons.

·         “Wise as serpents” means that the most important is to save your faith (your head) and all the rest can be given up: your own comfort, your own feelings, your own family, your own earthly life. “Simple as doves” means that you will never intend to hurt anyone, but you will be loving and pure. If you do hurt, hurt like the surgeon, only to heal. If you do cut, cut what is dead, not what can be saved. Be always careful not to pull up the good wheat together with the weeds (Matthew 13:24ff): sometimes an untimely violence with the bad may scandalize the good people as well, and you may lose them all.

·         Light the fire of Jesus in your own heart first. Do not give up in the fight: it is very easy to say that there is no solution to the evils of our time. God is still almighty, and he wants us to do something. What? It is not to “take up the weapons and kill them all”: that is easy, and does not make anyone a better person. It is neither to begin with our neighbour: it begins with ourselves! It is not necessarily easy: it requires patience and tactic. It is possible: one man (St. John Paul II, for example) with God, can turn the world upside down (remember his influence against the communism in the Soviet Union). We are many. May the Lord grant us the grace to bring peace to the world, the true peace.    –Fr. Andrew