Sunday, May 26, is the Sixth Sunday of Easter. Mass readings: Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Psalm 67: 2-3, 5, 6, 8; Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23; John 14:23-29.
One of the rarest gifts so consistently sought by the modern world is that of true and lasting peace. While people from politicians to beauty-pageant contestants declare that they want peace, it is not and has never been something we can manufacture or produce by ourselves. Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, a gift that Christ promised to his followers, that is intimately bound up with the truth that sets us free (see John 8:32).
In today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the early Christian community was losing its peace because of disputes about how to live the ritual laws of Judaism in the new context of Christianity. God knew that such questions would arise, and he gave his apostles authority to interpret his teaching precisely to safeguard peace. The Council of Jerusalem clarified what the Lord was asking of his people, and this clarity restored peace and unity.
Jesus revealed the source of true peace in his teaching contained in today’s Gospel from John. The gift of peace that Jesus promised is the indwelling presence of the God who loves us and whose grace gives us the strength to live according to his word; as Jesus assured, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (John 14:23).
This promise of Jesus shows that peace is not only something, but rather Someone. Peace is the outward sign or fruit of our God living within us. This abiding presence of our God helps us to know what is truly good and to live by it. St. Augustine frequently described peace as “the tranquility of order.” Nothing orders our souls as well as having God first and foremost, possessing him as our greatest treasure. When God is most important to us, all our other loves attain the proper order because we direct them to God.
In this world, it is hard to maintain the focus on God that gives us this great gift of peace. Peace is not about avoiding life, with its many changes and challenges, joys and sorrows, but it is about keeping our faith and hope alive so that we know where our true home is and whose love is our ultimate goal.
Today’s second reading provides a glimpse of the peace that will endure unshaken. When we reach that city whose “temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb” (Revelation 21:22), we will behold the face of God and will see all things in light of his loving will. As we await that blessed peace, we have the guidance of God’s word to help us rightly order our minds and hearts. Like the first Christians, we have the witness of the apostles, whose names are inscribed on the foundations of the heavenly city and whose teaching authority remains present to us in the Church.
Keeping in mind both our heavenly destiny and the ongoing guidance of the Spirit in and through the Church, we can receive the Spirit’s gift of peace even in this unpredictable life. Even more, we can hope for the perfect peace that knows no end in the city whose lamp is the Lamb.
Dominican Sister Mary Madeline Todd is a member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation in Nashville, Tennessee.
She is assistant professor of theology at Aquinas College in Nashville and also serves through retreats, public speaking and writing.