That word – that greeting – that sentiment of love – was used repeatedly by Jesus Christ in the days following His Resurrection.
It was meant to greet, to calm, to send a message about the life that He promises and the life that we all desire – one that is filled with peace and the love of Christ.
And that sentiment – that longing – that silent — almost plea– has pervaded human kind since Cain and Abel, since brother took up arms against brother. Throughout our history – through the early battles of Christians and Romans, through the Crusades, through the World Wars, through Vietnam, through Afghanistan, through the slaughter of 300,000 Syrians in the mid-East, through the barbaric and horrific acts of ISIS, we hear and wish for the spirit that peace would bring. Yet, it seems to elude humankind.
In our own personal lives, there is always a striving for peace. Sometimes it is as simple as peace between spouses, or peace within a family, or peace within a greater community. And each of us, of course, desires peace in our hearts – not just to love another but to know that where there is genuine peace, there is Jesus Christ.
By now, you have listened on countless occasions to my entreaty to you to recognize that you are more than a reflection of Christ – that Christ resides within you. And that our call is to be Christ to one another. But regardless of any homily, or any entreaty by an ageing deacon, that still seems hard to do. We try – sometimes in little ways –sometimes in big ways – and that is beautiful and commendable. But, more often than not, we slip back into our daily routine and the thought of actively being Christ to one another slips way.
So what is it? Why has peace eluded mankind through thousands of years? Why does peace seem so unattainable? I submit to you it is because we – mankind – have not centered our lives on the spiritual side – but instead have lived our lives on the side of materiality. The vast majority of humankind has not learned that when their focus is within – rather than without- there is genuine peace. Certainly there are groups that have achieved it – there are Buddhist monks, Christian religious orders – both men and women – who focus on spirituality and peace – they do it, they achieve it—and they know the joy of a life that is filled with the rhythm of a higher order.
It amazes me that Christians – for the most part – still hasn’t figured out the formula. So I am going to give it to you today, it’s quite simple in its direction. Here it is. If you seek peace, then seek it in the solitude of Christ.
Now what does that mean? How do you do that? Grant me the honor of starting you on that journey. Seeking peace in the solitude of Christ.
It begins with the opening of our day. Whether in bed or as our feet hit the floor, our first thought should be on Christ. And if it is then we seek to begin the daily connection between the Christ within and the Christ without. Seek a quiet place, relax and focus on Christ. Talk to Him either through normal prayer or conversational prayer. But whatever you do, make sure that there is a true conversation, Talk to Him about you your needs, your concerns, you hopes and your fears. Turn the day over to Him. Ask Him to take charge of the day and direct your actions. Use if you want to the prayer that I start my day with: ” May the thoughts in my mind, the words from my mouth and the actions from my hands, bring you glory, Oh God.”
Now move to another situation. The gift that has been given to you by Jesus Christ. My God, what an incredible gift! The most precious gift that we have ever received. The gift of Holy Eucharist. The gift – the incredible opportunity of not only receiving his Body and Blood – but, through that gift, of becoming one with Him. Of becoming one with Him. Now reflect on what we do with that gift. We receive it reverently, we offer our prayer of Thanksgiving, and when Mass is ended, we leave. And then what? Does the fact that Christ resides within you remain with you? It should. It should be a burning presence in your heart and souls. Christ is within me! Now, what do I do with that? Do I act that way? Do I let the power of that gift propel my day? Do I let the miracle of being united with Christ cause me to make bold decisions, bold actions, do I look for ways to say: enough about me, enough about my daily moaning and groaning, enough about the excuse of not having enough time – or, worse yet, I started to be Christ but now it’s becoming too much of a burden– its too big for me to bear. NO! NO! and NO! We are called to be that Christ –regardless of the personal sacrifice – regardless of the personal sacrifice. Our own Pope Francis cries out for us to turn our lives inside out and focus on the needs of the world.
And what about the wonderful gift we are given here at San Juan Bautista – the gift of Adoration of the Eucharist every Thursday. Have you ever been here on a Thursday? The altar draws you in. The Monstrance –the ornate holder that holds the Body of Christ for all to see, is at the center of the altar. The flowers, the candles, the quiet surround you as others sit in silence, talking to their Christ in solitude. Make that visit – make every Thursday a time when you find the time to be with Christ in solitude. After all, if we can make going to Tuesday market, can’t we make a Holy Thursday a priority? Speak to him — as you do in the morning – share all your hopes and concerns. Immerse yourself in the moment. Immerse yourself in the solitude of Christ.
To be Christ to one another. It is such a simple act but it is such an enormous gift. And while our history is full of those that have done it. Humankind – as a majority – have not. We now are engaged in a battle that scripture has written about and that mystics have prophesied. It is the battle of Christian vs non-believers. It is a battle that is being waged on two continents. Will it end? Will it be contained? No one knows. I personally believe it will not. The seeds of discontent were planted thousands of years again, and the withered branches they yield are filled with hatred and brutality and vengeance and they will continue until they are choked out one final and everlasting time.
We cannot control that. We can only pray that it ends. We can only pray for peace. But what we can also do is to begin a new life within. A life that is centered on the Christ within. We know not when the final end will come for us or for the world as we know it but we can prepare ourselves by giving ourselves the gift of peace.