"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." [Jn 14:27].
Each time we attend Mass, the priest or deacon invites us to share the Lord's peace with one another, and it is at that point that we exchange the sign of peace with each other. Here in the United States, the usual way this is done is by a handshake. But the Catholic Church leaves this up to local custom. If you are traveling in different parts of the world, you may discover that the custom at a particular church is to embrace each other or even kiss each other on the cheek. In my particular parish, we have hand-shakers, huggers, and kissers.
We share the peace of Christ with each other because we recognize that in a world that is so brutally ruled and governed by Satan, there is much to strip us and cheat us of our peace. We recognize that if there is one thing we desperately need, it is the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He Himself has left with us to guard our hearts and minds in these troubled times.
And yet, how many of us truly possess that peace? How many of us turn to our neighbor, shake his hand, and say, "Peace be with you," when we ourselves do not possess that peace?
Brothers and sisters, Jesus did not promise us a life without problems. In fact, He promised just the opposite, when He said to us, "I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world." [Jn 16:33]. Paul and Barnabas, when speaking to the disciples of Christ at Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, said to them, "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God." [Acts 14:22].
But no matter what we face in this life, we can be certain of two things which God has promised to us. First, in His faithfulness to us, He will never allow us to endure more than He knows we can handle. Second, in everything that we endure, He will always give us His peace, a supernatural peace that surpasses our human understanding and defies whatever horrific experiences we may be enduring in our lives.
This does not mean that we will feel joy in the midst of our sufferings, and we must be careful that we do not confuse joy with peace. Suffering brings pain, and God knows this. But God's peace will be present in your heart, assuring you of His presence and His nearness. His peace will be within you, a peace that whispers continually to your spirit, and says, "I don't know why God has allowed this, but I do know that He loves me. He cares for my soul, and He has my soul's best interest at heart. My Father has a plan! Somehow, some way, in His omniscience, He knows exactly how He plans to use this trial for my good. All that He asks of me as His child is to trust Him and to believe in that plan."
If we desire to tap into Christ's peace, a peace which He has freely given to us and desires us to possess no matter what we are facing, what must we do? The answer to this is simple: we must live lives that are completely surrendered, yielded, and obedient to Him. To give to God anything less than this will cheat you and strip you of the peace He desires you to have. This truth cannot be emphasized enough.
The truth is that many of us do not have the peace of Christ guarding our hearts and minds - not because God has placed us in circumstances that are beyond our ability to endure - but because there is an area (or areas) in our lives in which we are not yielding and surrendering to Him. Disobedience to God will manifest itself in a lack of peace. There are people who have everything going for them at this point in their lives: their marriage, career, finances, etc., and yet, they possess no inner peace. Their hearts are troubled and anxious, and they cannot understand why.
Any time there is a lack of peace in our lives, it is because our soul has become disconnected with its Creator in some way. You are a living soul. Your physical body is nothing more than the temporary tent in which your soul dwells. When death occurs, the soul is separated from the body, like a chick breaking out of its eggshell, and it returns to its Creator, who created you for Himself. People who spend their entire lives tending to the needs, desires, and pleasures of their physical body, while completely neglecting the nurturing of their soul, have been deceived. They are dead while they live. They are like a woman who plants a seed in a planter’s pot, but then spends all of her time taking care of the pot and not the seed. Night and day she tends to the pot, while the seed within it continues to go neglected, malnourished, and unfed. One day, when the pot falls to the ground and is shattered in many pieces, what remains will be nothing but a dead seed – a seed that was allowed to shrivel up and die because all of the woman's attention was spent tending to the pot and not the precious seed within that pot.
How foolish, you may say, for a woman to focus only on the pot and not the seed within that pot. But how are you any different when all of your time and attention are spent tending to the needs, pleasures, passions, and desires of your physical body while your soul, which is eternal and destined for life either in Heaven or Hell, goes shamefully neglected? How much time do you spend tending to the spiritual needs of your soul as opposed to the amount of time you spend catering to the demands of your flesh, which will one day die and decompose in a grave?
A man who neglects his soul will never have the peace of Christ abiding in his heart. Our churches are filled with people who attend Mass every week, and yet, possess no true peace. They possess no true peace because they live for the things of this world all week long and spend no time nurturing their souls. All week long, they strive to earn more money, buy more things, and pursue earthly pleasure. But what about the soul? How much time do they spend in prayer with the One who created them for Himself? They'll spend hours reading political books, but won't give the Holy Bible five minutes of their time. And yet, it is the Word of God that feeds and nourishes the soul, not any book that can only stimulate the flesh. They'll spend hours every night watching television when all the while their soul is crying out for contact and reconnection with its Creator. And then they wonder why they possess no genuine peace in spite of their weekly participation at Mass.
As much as I love God, there are times in my life when my humanity causes me to stumble, fall, and go astray. When I am not surrendering myself to God's will because I'm only concerned about my will, the peace of Christ will flee. When I refuse to repent of a sin, when I insist upon holding onto things that my Father in Heaven commands me to give up, and when I will not allow the Spirit to change certain things in me so that my life might be conformed to Christ, the peace of Christ departs from my life.
We need to pay attention to what I call the Peace Factor. Anytime we do not have the peace of Christ overflowing in our hearts, this is a telltale sign that something in our lives is causing our soul to be disconnected with its Creator. When our lives are "offline" with the will of the One who created us for Himself, peace pulls a disappearing act, and our hearts become fearful, troubled, and weighed down with anxiety. But when our lives are lined up with the will of our Heavenly Father, the peace of His Son will be present in our hearts regardless of what we are facing. This is because all is right with our soul.
A lack of Christ's peace in your heart is your soul's way of communicating to you that something is amiss in your walk and relationship with God. Something isn't right. Your soul is desperately trying to flag your attention to an area (or areas) in your life that need to be changed. Maybe you're holding back on certain areas of your life instead of giving everything up to follow Christ. Maybe you're not serving God at all because you're too preoccupied with the things of this world. Whatever the reason, your soul is letting you know that there's a problem and that it’s time to make a change if you truly want the peace of God to guard your heart and mind.
Anxiety, fear, and worry are not of God, who desires to give you His peace. These things are of the devil, who desires to keep you enslaved and to destroy your soul in the end.
Jesus Christ is gathering to Himself an army of souls who will belong to His kingdom forever, but so is the devil. There is an invisible war going on night and day in the heavens between the forces of God and the forces of Satan for the souls of men. God sent His Son to redeem us so that we could share eternal happiness with Him in Heaven. Satan, who knows that he is doomed beyond redemption, is also gathering to himself an army of souls. His goal is for men to share eternal destruction with him in his kingdom, the lake of fire, which God has prepared for him and his fallen angels. Christ Himself has spoken to us of this reality, and it is up to us to take Him at His Word if we wish to share eternal life with Him. Therefore, let us pay attention to the Peace Factor in our lives, and let us make amends where necessary. Let us examine our lives closely before God to see if they are truly lining up with the Faith that has been handed down to us by Christ and His Apostles. If all is well with our soul, Christ's peace will abide within us; if not, His peace will be absent.
Let us listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, brothers and sisters, and let us listen well, understanding the present time. Christ is coming like a thief in the night. He will come on a day and at an hour when men are not expecting Him. The hour has come for us to wake up from our slumber and to take serious note of the degree of peace that dwells within our hearts. That peace serves as an excellent gauge as to where our soul stands with God. To ignore it is to be unwise.
Our salvation is nearer now more than we realize or even expect! Let us take heed! Let us quickly make amends, for the night of this world is nearly over…
…and soon His Day shall break.
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