Shalom: The Prayer for Peace

8 May 2007: Tuesday of the 5th Week of Easter
John 14, 27-31 Our Desire for Peace

In today’s readings, the prominent characters are about to leave. In the first reading, Paul and Barnabas finish their journey by revisiting the churches they have started. They have asked the community to continue to hold on to their faith and continue to proclaim Christ’s work. In the Gospel, Jesus tells them after the resurrection, that he too will leave. But he is leaving with them a gift and a promise, the gift and the promise of peace (shalom). For Paul, Barnabbas and Jesus, the best gift we offer to our loved ones when leaving is the gift of peace. And this gift of peace, is above all else, an act of love.

I have a favorite goodbye prayer, The Irish Blessing:

May the road rise to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

The rain fall softly on your fields;

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

To be at peace is to be held by God in the palm of his hand. Just as St. Ignatius would say, only God can give peace, and thus only in God we gain peace.

It is true that our many troubles and conflicts whether in our families, work, school and in ourselves, are caused by things we do that are not of God. So our mind is not at peace and our hearts are not quiet and restful. When we become attune with the Spirit of God, when our plans and our decisions are aligned with God, we become peaceful and deeply contented.

What is peace? Is it the absence of pain and suffering? Is it the exemption from daily trouble and worry? When we pray for a peace of mind, are we praying that God will remove all that distresses us? But we all know that even God suffered too. What then is peace?

But we have to work for peace. The famous Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr, adapted in different ways by Alcoholics Anonymous tells us what may give us peace:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom, to know the difference.

Peace then is a gift from God, but we have to receive it in our hearts, and be convinced that we too have to give peace to each other. And it is not easy as experience tells us that it needs all our love to work for it. We need to look at Jesus’ dying at the cross as an act of love. We have to believe that when we imbibe Jesus’ values and practice them, there will be peace. Pope John Paul II once said that “Peace is not a utopia, nor an inaccessible ideal, or an unrealizable dream… Peace is possible.” St. Francis of Assisi prayed, Lord make me an instrument of your peace.

However, there is something else: peace is attained when we have the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of peace. There is a song called The Prayer for Peace. It goes this way:

Peace before us, Peace behind us, Peace under our feet.

Peace within us, Peace over us, Let all around us be peace.

And as the song progresses, the word, peace is substituted with Christ. I think this is important. When in the middle of our loneliness, we look up to Jesus and realizes we are not alone, then we have peace. When in the center of much sorrow, we turn to Jesus and are comforted, then we have peace. When in the midst of darkness and confusion, we look at Jesus’ guidance and find light, then we have peace.

And thus, as Paul, Barnabbas and Jesus wished, left and gave their peace, we too wish and give to each other the desire that each of us will be held in the palm of God’s hands.

* Carlo Tuazon, an excellent violinist of Musica Chiesa who plays regularly at the 11:00 AM Sunday Mass, praying during their retreat with Canto Cinco (C5).

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