The Third Sunday of Pentecost: The Holy Spirit at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Norman, OK
1 Corinthians 2, 1-10 + John 14, 21-27
May 29, 2016
In the mythology of nearly every people there is an account how human creatures fell from a state of peace. It does not matter whether this took place at one moment in history, because for us it takes place all the time. We are always falling out of peace. Something is flawed in our hearts that is a tragic misdirection of freedom which we seem to inherit, reaffirm, and pass on from one generation to the next. Our Genesis story speaks of this. In that story there is first the break with God, and so at the sound of his coming there is fear, hiding, deception, evasion, and shame. Even sadder is the way man and woman turn on each other with anger and blame. He blames the woman, she blames the serpent. Here at the beginning it is the same as the end, division between human beings. The story goes on with anguish and progressive alienation. There is then the murder with Cane and Able. Then treachery in Noah’s family followed by the story of the Tower at Babel. It is all about humans seizing by force what has been offered as a gift: likeness to God. Isn’t that what the serpent offered? “Eat this and you will be like God.” They had already been created in the image and likeness of God! Why eat and apple except to assume control and make it seem that it was something they could do and possess as their own. Bad thinking.
Even so, in the heart of every person and in the collective memory of every society there is a profound nostalgia for paradise, a great longing for peace. The creation and origin myths of every people describe our beginnings as a time when God and humanity dwelled together as one. That is exactly what our Genesis story speaks of, “Eden”. It is more of a condition than a place describing the relationship that existed between the creator and the creature. In those days God spoke to his creature face to face, and there was no fear. In that relationship the longings of the heart were in order and there was peace. The basis of human peace is still the same: peace with God.
Restoring that right order is exactly what the mission of Jesus was to accomplish. Without that right order and relationship there will be no peace. The very word: “SHALOHM” describes wholeness. Literally it is a verb describing the mending of a net. Jesus Christ is himself our peace. His incarnation, his coming to us in human form, mends the break between the creature and created, between the human and the divine. Everything he did among us and everything that continues by the Spirit in these days is the restoration of oneness. The blind and the lame, the lepers, the sinners were all outcasts, broken from the wholeness of life. In the presence of Jesus Christ that brokenness could not last. He restored a dead boy to his mother, a dead daughter to her father, a dead brother to his sisters. He sent lepers back to the priests, and in his human form he returned to his Father. It is all about oneness, and it is always about God.
A peacemaker then is not someone who comes to patch things up, arrange a settlement and find a compromise. There is no compromise with God. Jesus is the only peacemaker. He showed us what peacemaking was all about. It was his “atonement” (at-one-ment) with the Father that enabled him to bring that unity to humans for one purpose: “That they may all be one as we are one.” Only in that oneness is there peace. Having risen from the dead in his complete obedience to the Will of God, he came again and again to his disciples with one greeting: “Peace be with you.” We proclaim and remember his commission to us: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” We are to continue that peacemaking by manifesting the same attitudes of forgiveness and mercy, of acceptance and reconciliation that he showed toward us. This is the only way to peace.
To do this we must be at peace with ourselves. This has little to do with feeling good inside, with assurance of a calm and unruffled life or a successful career. The peace given by a crucified Messiah is not found in trivialities. It has to do with fidelity to the Father, and the awareness that we are loved and accepted by God. Once grounded in this, we are able to reach out to others in peace, because we need not find our center in pleasure, possessions, or power. We have no conflict with others over those things. Not needing to possess or use others we can freely see them for what they are, God’s children and place ourselves at their service.
There is the only hope for and only one basis for peace. It is the only way we will ever break down the conflicts that tear apart the human family. Without peace with God there will be no peace among us. What is different and what gives us hope now is that we have been given the gift of peace in Jesus Christ.