Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
A clarification is necessary to begin. The gospel did not say that Jesus is against true peace. Jesus reminds us, as he taught when walking the earth, people will either accept or reject the message of his gospel. Merely tolerating the gospel--ignoring its challenges to our ways of living and acting--is not living as a disciple of Jesus.
His gospel invites all people to know him, to love him and to follow him. It’s the following of Jesus where division occurs most. An early bishop, St. Gregory of Nyssa, reminded his hearers when he preached one day
that peace is defined as harmony among those who are divided. When, therefore, we end that civil war within our nature and cultivate peace within ourselves, we become peace./1/Good words! Why?
Because we tend to consider division outside us: we versus them. Before it’s outside division is interior and deeply personal. Our grim human striving flows from “that civil war within our nature,” a vivid way of describing how sin fractures us.
To counter one of sin’s effects we prayed last weekend during our General Intercessions that all Christians might preach to the world and to their governments the truth of Jesus’ gospel. That is not easy, as Jesus reminded us, and Jeremiah dramatically and the Psalmist poetically demonstrated. In Jeremiah’s day, the princes wielded power during weak King Zedekiah’s reign. Jeremiah was sent by God to speak words that the king and the powerful princes did not want to hear: they ought to surrender to Babylon and live rather than die.
The king, and the princes who wielded power, considered Jeremiah’s prophetic message treason for which he deserved to languish in a pit and starve to death. The mysterious, Servant of the King--Ebed-melech means servant of the king--won the reversal of the royal decree. The unpatriotic prophetic message continued to be heard. God works mysteriously.
The Psalmist encountered a similar fate. We don’t know its details. What we do know is that the Psalmist cried out to God, Lord, come to my aid! The Lord heard and set his feet on solid ground. Moments ago you and I made our own the Psalmist’s plea to God. We ought to make that plea often, day to day, so that we might receive greater courage to rely on God and on the gospel God’s son, Jesus, proclaimed.
We cry out, Lord, come to my aid! because Jesus knew personally what standing for the gospel and its kingdom costs. While it cost Jesus his life, his death was not the end of his story. Not by any means! In ways which elude our logic, and may even repulse us, Jesus’ death opened on to absolutely new life.
We cry out, Lord, come to my aid! because Jesus endured his suffering and death in order that [we] may not grow weary and lose heart in standing for his gospel with our lives. Many have paid as Jesus did. Because our crucified Messiah lives, Jesus is true peace. Jesus lives for us. Because “we think of Christ as our peace, we may call ourselves true Christians only if our lives express Christ by our own peace,” to use St. Gregory of Nyssa’s words./2/
It is probably true none of us will resist to the point of shedding blood for the gospel. Our lives ought to show some scar of faithful discipleship so we might always remember who we are: ambassadors of Christian peace, who are so by what we do in life.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week begin this way: allow yourself to become more aware of the Trinity and the great love the Divine Person’s have for you. Ask the martyrs of every age to present you to Jesus, so that you may converse with him as his disciple, friend and companion. Speak to Jesus about his gospel mission and tell him your desire to stand faithful to it and to Jesus, who is true peace. Resolve to accept Jesus, for those who accept him have his peace. Close by slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer. To say it from the heart calls the Lord to come to our aid. It also teaches us how to “express Christ by our own peace.” Its lesson we learn only by persevering in Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
/1/ his Treatise on Christian Perfection, excerpt in Office of Readings for this Sunday, Liturgy of the Hours, vol. IV, p. 107.
/2/ Ibid., p. 106.
Image of St. Gregory of Nyssa posted by Lee--with no citation--at Conjectures of a Guilty Seminarian on 09Mar2004; Wiki-image of Jesus preaching and people not accepting his message is in the public domain. .