Where do we find peace?
Many times we ask this question when something happens like last Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas. The activity of evil is clearly present in our world. We cannot avoid it. We open the paper or look at the news online and see horrendous acts of violence done by humans to other humans.
Parents worry about the world their children live in and the world their grandchildren will inherit. Fear grips communities traumatized by violent activity. A number of people in places where violence is ever present become numb, and run the risk of thinking such violence is “just the way it is.”
Jesus offers us a different way — not a way of violence, but of peace. The choice is ours to make.
The Gospel account recalls Jesus preaching about his own rejection, and where that rejection would eventually lead. The vineyard is the kingdom of God in its formation. The landowner is God the Father; the son is Jesus. It is he who will be “seized” and “killed,” the “stone rejected” that will become the “cornerstone.”
Here we come to the realization that Jesus had to face rejection, torture, violence and death. He was aware of this during his public ministry, as this parable makes clear. The common reactions in these situations might include fear, anger and hostility. Jesus does not seem to display these; rather, he forges ahead on his journey, fully aware of where that journey is leading, and walking that journey with an incredible sense of peace. Where does such tranquility come from?
The peace that grounds Jesus, his life and mission comes from his relationship with his Father. He relies completely on the Father, trusting that the Father is with him and will see him through the mission which culminates with his passion and death. The Father will bring him to the resurrection.
We are called to have that same faith-filled relationship with God. In fact, it is through the sacraments that we are actually incorporated into that relationship. However, if we want that relationship to be fruitful, evident and life-giving, it needs to be developed.
In his Letter to the Philippians, St. Paul gives us some advice in this regard: he exhorts the reader to “have no anxiety at all.”
We might respond, “You’ve got to be kidding. Do you live in this world?”
St. Paul is fully aware of the evils of this life; they were the same evils Jesus had to face, and the same evils he himself had to confront. So he says, “In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Notice he does not say at this point that the evil will be eliminated or that justice will instantly prevail. His emphasis here is inner peace, solace and serenity. All of this stems from our relationship with God in Christ Jesus through prayer and thanksgiving.
Prayer and thanksgiving need to be regular in order for our relationship with God to grow and develop. So many people today have their days and evenings filled with a wide range of responsibilities or obligations. Carving out time for prayer might be a challenge for some, but the rewards will be incredible.
Some people find a daily Mass that fits their schedule. Here they have the opportunity to listen to the word of God proclaimed in the Scriptures and to be nourished through the Eucharist. Some people block off time at home to reflect on the readings of the day, or to say the rosary or observe some other devotion. Some people pray on the train or in the car as they go to work.
Regardless of where or when, establishing a pattern or habit of prayer is important. The thanksgiving which Paul mentions should also be regular. The more we can identify the blessings in life which call for thanksgiving, the more we realize the love of God always present in our life.
Peace is something we all desire for our world, for our families, for ourselves. Jesus teaches us by his life, death and resurrection that the source of peace lies within our very selves. We are not the source of peace, yet it resides in the very depths of our hearts.
It is there where we can encounter our loving Father, who leads us through the anxieties and fears of this world to a better place — a place of love, a place of mercy, a place of peace.
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.