Yes, Peace is Possible in a Chaotic World
“Lord Jesus Christ,
Who said to your Apostles:
Peace I leave you, my peace I give you,
Look not on our sins,
But on the faith of your Church,
And graciously grant her peace and unity
In accordance with your will.
Who live and reign forever and ever.
Peace be with you.”
“And with your spirit.”
This exchange between the priest and the congregation is said at every Mass. Immediately before the reception of the Eucharist, while the Blessed Sacrament is on the altar we are reminded of the great gift of peace that the Lord has given us and the mission entrusted to us to offer that peace to the world.
Oh boy, does the world need peace right now. The word unprecedented has become cliché, but it is true. From COVID-19 to Black Lives Matter; from shelter-in-place to a growing movement to remove statues and monuments that some find offensive for the beliefs and actions of the people whom they depict. The past few months have seemingly been the opposite of our notion of peace. But how do we hold onto the peace that the Lord has given us? How do we find it if we think we may have lost it? What is this peace? These are all good questions that many of us may have been thinking about these past few months.
First off, what is this peace that the Lord offers us? True peace does not mean that there is no conflict or disagreement, that nothing that is ever contentious. We often have an overly romanticized notion of what the peace of Christ looks like in our lives. We have to look at the context of the dialogue between the priest and people that began our discussion. The Eucharist is present. The Eucharist is the source of this peace. In the Extraordinary Form, the kiss of peace begins with the priest kissing the chalice containing the Precious Blood of Jesus before offering it to the people. The source of the peace of Christ is the blood that is spilled during the execution of our Lord. The peace of Christ stems from Christ having extreme violence being done to Him.
In a lesser way, we can think of the story in the Gospel of the storm coming up while Jesus and his Apostles were in the boat. The winds and waves began to frighten the Apostles, but Jesus slept in the boat. Jesus had peace whereas the world around Him was in turmoil. So we see that the peace of Christ is not dependent on what may be happening around us, but is instead an interior reality.
This interior reality stems from being anchored to Christ. In our lives, we have to anchor ourselves to something; when the waves around us crash we all retreat to our anchor. Our anchor is that which we have attached our lives and we think provides some stability. We can’t be without an anchor, even if we don’t know what we have anchored ourselves to. Some may have anchored themselves to the anxiety and nervousness of getting overly upset about the headlines. We know these people: every day is a new crisis that is driven by the latest news update. Their anchor seems to be the chaos of the daily news. There are others who have anchored themselves to the stability that they think their money brings. Others have anchored themselves to a political party or a political figure.
Now, I need to say this: following the news, having financial stability, or participating in the political process are not bad things. They are necessary things for living in this world, but the questions need to be posed: have we made these things a god? Have we anchored our lives to them? If we choose to anchor our lives to anything fleeting, anything temporal, basically anything that is not God, we will constantly live a life of chaos. However, if we attach our anchor to Jesus Christ, the waves of the world may crash around us, but we can live a life of interior peace. An interior peace that allows us to protest injustice in the world and deal with the stress of this life, but remain anchored to the unchanging, eternal God.
So, how do we do this? How do we either begin to attach our anchor to Jesus Christ or maintain our connection? I am going to suggest just a few ways, but all of them fall under one general category of prayer.
There is no other way except prayer to either attach ourselves to Christ as an anchor or to maintain this connection. There are some good ways to pray in order to focus on this connection to Jesus Christ in order to maintain our God given peace.
The Liturgy of the Hours is a great way to do this, because it is prayer that is designed to be done at particular times of the day. It is a prayer that is, by its very nature, supposed to be in the world. Don’t try to start doing all of the Liturgy of the Hours if you haven’t ever done this though. Start slowly. Perhaps start with morning prayer and evening prayer (Lauds and Vespers). Each of these, when done slowly, take about 15 minutes each and can be found via a free app for your smartphone. Praying the psalms, the same prayers, that Christ himself would have prayed during his life, connects the person praying not only to Christ but also to the Church, the Body of Christ, through all those around the world who are also praying these prayers.
The second prayer I want to suggest is the Mass itself. Many places around the country are allowing people to come to public Masses, but even if you are only able to attend virtually, it is still prayer. You can still unite your own lives to the sacrifice of the Mass that you are watching online. Trust that the grace of Jesus Christ will have an affect on you. By offering our joys, struggles, celebrations, and temptations on the paten along with the bread being lifted up by the priest we are uniting ourselves to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; the same sacrifice that is the source of the kiss of peace offered during the Mass.
Whether the waves and winds that rise up in our lives come from the events in our country, or from the unseen and unreported troubles of our lives, peace is possible. The peace that God offers us is not dependent on the lack of worry in our lives, but rather it depends on our having anchored ourselves to Jesus Christ. The peace we seek cannot be found in things of this world, but only through Christ. Prayerfully anchor yourself to Christ.