Monday, September 18, 2006

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
Walking in the Way of Peace

Reading: Isaiah 50:5-9; Psalm 115; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35

If there is one thing for which probably every person of goodwill prays it is peace. We know how much this gift is needed in our world, in our communities, in our families, in our hearts. We also know how elusive it is. But what does this peace look like that we are seeking? Is it really the same as that which God offers us, the same peace that Jesus promises his disciples, that which the world cannot give?

It may seem puzzling at first to speak of peace today. None of our readings contain this word. However, we can be confident that we are not barking up the wrong tree. Consider the second opening prayer for Mass today. Notice how the word peace is mentioned no less than three times. In the introduction, we are invited to pray for the peace which is born of faith and hope. In the body of the prayer, we declare our Father in heaven to be the source of our peace, and we ask that we may share in the peace of Christ.

Indeed, closer attention to our readings rewards us with renewed appreciation of this peace. What does the way of peace that is born of faith look like? Consider the second reading. As James reminds us, true faith – the kind that brings God’s peace – is expressed in and accompanied by good works, by care for the needy. Is this not why in our efforts at attaining peace for ourselves we seem inevitably to be ushered upon the road of charity and justice? Indeed, has it not been said there can be no peace without justice?

Still, as we well know, the way of faith is not one of pure activism. Even good works can be done for the wrong reasons. The way of faith is also the way of peace only because it is a way that is traversed in the presence of God. As the psalmist says, I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living. We find this travel motif in the gospel today. In their travels with Jesus, in their walk in the presence of the Lord, the disciples are brought to a very important place: the villages around Caesarea Philippi. This is a place that all of us have to pass. Of course, we don’t all have to visit the Holy Land. But, in one way or another, we all pass through this place. For more than just a geographical location, the villages around Caesarea Philippi represent a milestone in the spiritual journey. This is a special place – a place of crisis and of contradictions. It is at once a place of praise and rebuke, a place of recognition and puzzlement, a place of consolation and challenge.

This is the place where we answer the question who do you say that I am, the place where we acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, the anointed one, our personal and communal Lord and Savior. This is the place where we commit ourselves to walk in the presence of the Lord. And this is the also place where we are challenged to continue following even when the Lord turns to us – as he did to the first disciples – and invites us to renounce ourselves and take up our cross. This is when our desire to continue walking in the presence of the Lord is put to the test. This is when we begin to realize that the way of faith that brings peace is also the way of hope – hope against all hope, hope even in the face of death and destruction. This is the same hope we find in the words of Isaiah: I set my face like flint; I know I shall not be shamed. It is the hope that makes the way of the cross also a way to glory and peace.

Is this the peace for which we seek? Will we be contented with this peace? Do we wish to walk in this way, even if we struggle along it, even if we sometimes stumble and fall? Or will we look elsewhere?

1 comment:

  1. Your reflection touched a raw nerve. Increasing difficult to find peace as when one gets older, one is absorbed by time.
    One can either take time or kill time. The former to reflect, the later to idle. To find a balance as in Zen, one need to manage time both in prayer and good works. Alas my motives and agenda are often called into question.
    How can I not stumble and fall??