by Father Angelus M. Shaughnessy, O.F.M. Capuchin
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you” (Jn. 14:27). Peace is Jesus’ farewell gift to us. We know of at least nine times that Jesus appeared after He had risen from the dead. Each time, He introduced Himself with: “Peace be to you!” He wants peaceable possession of our hearts, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
His is not the peace of the prison because we are free with the freedom of the sons of God. His is not the peace of the cemetery because we are alive with His spirit, the Living Triune God within us. At peace, we are one with God; one with ourselves; and one with others insofar as this is possible in this world. Jesus’ “Fear not!” is only the beginning of His peace plan for each of us. Peace is the fruit of His spirit.
For seniors and the chronologically gifted, peace is the best way to translate joy, the infallible sign of the Christian. A Christian has only one duty: to be full of joy, full of peace. St. Francis would say it is for the devil and his ilk to be sad; but for us always to rejoice in the Lord. He would allow nobody and no thing to take away his peace from him. He was absolutely convinced: sin is the greatest enemy of peace, followed by noise, haste, fear, and violence.
To the friar who was depressed – who had lost his peace – St. Francis would side up to him and very gently whisper into his ear: “Brother, maybe you had better get to confession and have the joy and the peace of the Lord restored.” Long before Leon Bloy, St. Francis knew there was only one sadness in life; and that is: not to be a saint. The common denominator of all the saints is their cultivation of peace, sometimes amidst great turmoil and suffering and the noise of a very active apostolate. Where will I find relatively the greatest peace is the best way to determine a choice of vocation.
Saint Augustine said it first: For a priest to restore the life of God to a penitent is a greater achievement than the creation of the world at the beginning of time. Did you know how many celestial bodies our God created at the beginning of time? They have counted them. As we get more highly powered telescopes, I am sure that the number will multiply. The latest count is 70 sextillion (70, 000,000,000.000,000,000,000) celestial bodies; that is, 70 with 21 zeroes behind it. There are more celestial bodies in the universe than there are grains of sand on the seashores of our oceans and in the deserts of the earth. But for a priest to restore the life of God to a penitent is a greater achievement than even that. I believe this with all my heart.
Peace never comes by itself. It is always in a package with something else, like:
1. Peace and Pardon – Don’t expect peace until you yourself have experienced the loving kindness and mercy of God and you are willing to extend that gift of forgiveness to all those who may have hurt you. Peace can come to the Middle East and to any other troubled spots in the world only when various factions learn the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
2. Peace and Justice – Until you give to every person what is coming to them, you have no right to enjoy peace. “Owe no man anything, except to love him” (cf. Romans 13:8). The perfection of justice is charity, our only debt to those whose lives we touch. If we are not peace-makers, we may be trouble-makers.
3. Peace and Obedience – (The motto of Blessed Pope John Paul XXIII) Peace is the tranquility of order. When we are submissive to the order established by God, we will experience peace. Otherwise, the joy of peace cannot be realized. The Lord is the hub of the wheel and we are the spokes. The closer we get to the hub, to the Lord, the closer we come to one another. In the Lord, our cold, icy hearts will melt.
4. Peace and Penance – Take the two “n’s” out of penance for your name and mine, and we have “peace.” God will never reward us with His peace until we make the sacrifices He is asking of us. This is the heart of all the messages our Blessed Mother shared in her many apparitions around the world.
In the New Testament, the theme of freedom (especially freedom from the slavery of sin) is treated at least 20 times. The theme of love (particularly, the unconditional love of agape) is featured 5 x 20 times; the theme of peace, 6 x 20 times. The only theme articulated more frequently is life: 9 x 20 times. For example: “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (Jn. 10:10). But what is life without peace? That would be hell on earth.
“Pax et bonum!” (Peace and good!) was ever the greeting of St. Francis. Peace is truly a good, and every other blessing besides.
© Father Angelus M. Shaughnessy, O.F.M. Capuchin
Since his ordination as a Franciscan Capuchin priest in 1955, Fr. Angelus has served in many capacities, including Director of the Secular Franciscan Order (S.F.O.), missionary, speaker, counselor, and various roles at EWTN. He is now the National Executive Director of the Archconfraternity of Christian Mothers in Pittsburgh, PA.