Worldly Peace is not Peace at All
Who is John in our second reading trying to fool? “I saw the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendor of God. . .”
John, who are you trying to kid? We never come across this city of perfection. Everything all orderly, twelve, twelve, and twelve. Everything set perfectly, three facing east, three north, three south, three west. No, John, this town is far removed from our world and if we wait for it to come down from heaven and take root alongside our town— well, I suspect we would be very disappointed.
There is no perfection around us. We know that all too well. Violence, lawlessness and drugs creep their way into places we would have never expected. Disappointments and craziness in the culture abound. Some say boys can get pregnant, others laud unnatural relationships as diversity and advancement of humanity, when in reality it is the destruction of humanity.
Selfishness seems to be the key word in our world. Orderliness loses out to so- called social awareness. Stability is overthrown by the constant refrain of racism or white supremacy. No, John, if we look where we live, we see nothing like the ordered city of perfection you describe.
The risen Jesus describes best what St. John is talking about in the Book of Revelation. “‘Peace’ I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” But listen to me now, “Not as the world gives ‘peace’ do I give it to you,” but do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” The peace offered by the risen One is a peace that the world has much trouble seeing. Indeed, the world never really gives peace, it negotiates something called peace. The negotiations are always tumultuous, often straying. Muscle is brought to the table— nuclear threats, terrorist activity, tentative cease fires, military operatives, and economic sanctions. All of these are meant to corner the other, to force the other’s hand, and then to force peace at the tip of a lance.
The peace the world has to offer is not really peace at all. It is simply the suspension of conflict and violence, physical and emotional. Nor, is this kind of peace really given. It is a fragile agreement reached which can fall apart in a split second. Christ’s peace on the other hand, is something quite different.
Too often we are so convinced that the Resurrection has only an affect in the world to come. It doesn’t! The resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the most important historical event that ever happened, has an affect here and now, all the way up to the time when the Kingdom will come to its fullest. One of the greatest effects of the Resurrection here and now is the gift of God’s peace.
The peace God offers is to be lived at this moment. Think for a second, the peace and joy that comes from a new birth in all its spectacular beauty; it is the peace and happiness of loving and growing relationships; it is the peace and comfort of a holy death. It is a peace that we glimpse at in this world in spite of the chaos that surrounds us in this world. It is a peace knowing all who follow Christ will be, OK, no matter what.
The gift of peace the Resurrected Christ gives each of us is the sure and certain knowledge that even death will not separate us from God. “I do not give it to you as the world gives peace.” In other words, don’t be confused or dismayed when worldly peace seems to be elusive. Don’t be distraught when the visible seems unbearable. For the peace of Christ promised and given is this: “Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him always.” The divine peace given is simply the divine presence assured each and every day we live in the world.
“I saw the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.” John, now I can understand what you see in the distance. Now I can imagine that perfect place, I just wasn’t looking in the right direction.