At the end of my junior year in college I had been dating a girl for almost 3 years. It’s important to note that her dad was a Lutheran pastor, so she obviously was Lutheran. As we were getting more serious in our relationship, at one point I casually said in conversation: When our kids are Catholic. She immediately asked, What did you say? I said, When our kids our Catholic... She responded, I thought our kids would be Lutheran. I responded, Our kids will be Catholic. No, she said, our kids will be Lutheran. I said, My kids will be Catholic. She said, My kids will be Lutheran.
It’s probably no surprise that we broke up shortly there after. While I thought that I had been doing God’s will, I found myself back at square one. For that reason, I decided to ask if God had any good ideas, since I seemed to be out of them. One day in prayer at the chapel of the Newman Center at the University of Nebraska, I simply asked God what he wanted me to do with my life. The response came back very clearly in my heart: Go to seminary and be a priest. Well, I promptly walked out of the chapel that day. After about six months of daily prayer, I finally saw the goodness of God’s Will in my life, and approached the assistant pastor, Fr. Kane, to make an appointment with him. As I sat in his office, I told him that I thought God was calling me to be a priest, so I wanted to go to the seminary. He just stared at me, and said nothing. I repeated, I want to go to seminary and be a priest. After a period of silence, he simply responded, It’s about time, he said; we all knew you were going to the seminary; it was just a matter of time. I asked why he had not informed me sooner, and he said, Well, you just needed to figure it out on your own!
Well, as soon as I told Fr. Kane of my intentions, there was a profound sense of peace in my heart. That sense was felt deep within my heart and lasted for several weeks. I imagine that if you had approached me during that time and punched me in the face, I would probably have responded with a smile and a thank you. It was really that deep! And I hope that we have all, at one point or another during our lives, felt that profound sense of peace that comes only from Jesus Christ.
Today, St. Paul says to us in his letter to the Ephesians that Christ is our peace. The question is what does that mean? Some might say it is merely a warm fuzzy feeling; others might describe it as an absence of war. Still others might say that peace comes from a political or economic security. The saints, however, say that peace is the tranquility of order. St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, speaks of Christ as restoring a unity, as restoring an order; if there is an order to re-establish, then there must have been an order that was damaged or lost. Our faith tells us that that order and harmony which was present in the garden of Eden at the beginning of time, was lost during the fall by means of original sin. If we look at Adam and Eve’s response to God after having eaten the apple, we see that sin damages all of our relationships. When God came looking for them, Adam and Eve were hiding from God because they were afraid of Him whom they had once trusted and loved. God’s question to Adam is: What have you done? Adam, knowing what his original responsibility was, namely to guard and defend the garden and protect the dignity of his wife against evil, had failed and his response was simply, She made me do it, pointing to his wife. Eve’s response in turn, was to point to the evil one, and say, The serpent made me do it! As we see in this experience, sin damages our relationships; it first damages our relationship with God, then the order and harmony within our souls, and our harmony with the world around us.
It is Christ, then, who provides the solution to the problem. He does that first in himself. As we have know from the time that we were young, the Church teaches us that God became man in Jesus Christ. This phrase however, might make us think that God somehow changed, but it is important to remember what we learned as children in religion classes or catechism: Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. In Him, God has been united to a human nature. In the words of the letter to the Ephesians, Jesus Christ has broken down the wall of enmity, through his flesh. Looking forward to the day of Christ, Jeremiah wrote of Christ: as king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land. That is, he comes to establish and order, not just for himself as the King, but for all those in his kingdom, namely us.
Not only does he show us how to live in harmony with God, but he enables us to do likewise. In fact, he greatly desires us to be healed, to be restored to harmony, to experience the order that brings peace. He wants us to experience harmony and unity and order in our relationship with God, in our relationship with those around us, in our interior life, and in our dealings with creation. We can see that disunity and disharmony in those same for areas of our life. Whenever we struggle with doing God’s will in our lives, struggling to put our will in the place of God’s will, this shows us where there is disunity, disharmony, and this order in our lives; it is a lack of peace. When we see in our lives, also a struggle with personal sins, whenever we are like St. Paul, saying, I do not do the good that I want, but rather do the evil that I do not want, which are usually those sins which we repeatedly confess in our regular confessions, when we say that we love our way of doing things, more than God’s way of doing things, we show disunity, this harmony, disorder, and a lack of peace in our lives. When we look at our relationship with others, whether it’s his family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or any other person in our lives, and find some struggle to love them as Christ has loved us, we see that same disharmony, disorder, and lack of peace. Finally, when we struggle with the goods of this world, be they are worries about money, our homes, the crops in the field, our next payment, or any other worldly concerns, such that we spend more time worrying about them than we do trusting in the Providence of our heavenly Father, we again see this harmony, disorder, and a lack of peace.
We return to the Gospel to find the solution to overcome this lack of unity, harmony, and peace. St. Mark tells us that when the Apostles returned from preaching the Gospel, Jesus invited them to come away with Him to a quiet place and simply be with Him. This too is the solution for us; Jesus wants to invite us to come away with Him, to be close to Him who is our peace. We draw near to him first through the Sacraments, especially the Most Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Confession. In fact, one of the last things which the priest says to us at the end of our confession is: The Lord has freed you from your sins, go in peace.
In addition, we draw near to Christ through our time of daily quiet meditation and reading of Sacred Scripture. Whether that means coming before him in the Blessed Sacrament in the Church or finding a quiet place in our home perhaps, we can draw near to Him and give Him the space necessary to bring about the healing in our lives that will bring unity, order, and peace. I remember a phrase that Fr. Scott Courtney taught us while we were seminarians; when asked how often we should pray his response was: everyday, everyday, everyday! This is how often we must come near to Christ: Everyday, everyday, everyday!
Now, some will respond by saying to us, that’s nice for you Catholic Christians to think that Christ will bring you peace, but we think otherwise. This is in no way what St. Paul means when he says: Christ is our peace. Whether they agree with us or not, be they Jews, Muslims, or even atheists, Jesus Christ is the one and only path to peace. There is no other means of acquiring true tranquility of order than through Him. Christ is not one option among many; He is the only option!
He does not limit our options to make our lives sad, boring, or lame, but rather because He loves us. He is the good Shepherd who seeks us when we stray; he is our Father who wants the greatest good for us all! We seek to be healed by Him, to cooperate with His Grace so that we might be healed and experience the harmony, unity, and order that Christ desires for each of us in his great love that we might enjoy eternal pastures and dwell with joy in the Father’s house forever!