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Ministries, Charisms, Fruits - 16 Peace

Wednesday, June 03, 2009
"Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit" (John 15:5), and one of those fruits, which we receive from Jesus if we dwell in him and draw our strength from him, is peace. In St Paul's Letter to the Galatians 'peace' translates the Greek, eirene. Peace is a result of a life animated by the Holy Spirit, but it comes from Christ who has brought peace and reconciliation to the world by his passion, death and resurrection. Thus we are reminded in the Mass of the words of the Risen Lord: "Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you" (see John 14:27; 20:19-23).

These words of the Lord teach us that the life which is conformed to the Cross of the Lord, which becomes more Christ-like, receives Christ's peace. And what is the peace Paul has in mind? In Philippians 2:2 he asks the Philippians to be "of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind", this being the one mind of Jesus Christ. It is thus that St Paul exhorts the Philippians to put aside their quarrels and pride, and to imitate the Lord's humility who emptied himself of his equality with God and became a slave and was obedient even to the point of accepting death on a Cross (see Philippians 2:1-18). Hence, peace is being ordered to the mind of Christ which "in humility [counts] others better than [ourselves]".

It is in view of this Christ-centred orientation that St Augustine says that "peace is the tranquility of order". Because peace is ordered towards Christ and the eternal Good it is unlike worldly peace which is more like "a break between wars". Christ's peace infinitely surpasses the fragility of our uneasy treaties and efforts at a truce. It is ordered towards lasting joy in heaven. It is true, never deceptive, and as St Thomas Aquinas notes, it assures peace within ourselves, and in our relationships and surroundings. Such peace, of course, is the peace that the saints enjoy in heaven, and which is ultimately the goal of all our human aspirations for peace. It is not mere coincidence that the universal symbol for peace is a dove, which is also a way of depicting the Holy Spirit, the giver of true peace.

For perfect peace - conformity with Christ - comes not by our efforts but because of Who has been given to us in baptism. The peace which the Risen Christ leaves us is a Person: it is the Holy Spirit, whose work is peace, for the Spirit orders all things according to the mind of Christ. As the Lord said, "he will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you" (John 16:14). And so, the peace of Christ is ours, who are called to be saints (see Romans 1:7) and who have been given the Holy Spirit. For the Spirit is the fruit of the unity and love of the Father and the Son, and he is the one who makes us Christians of one heart and mind with Christ, who is perfectly ordered to the will of the Father. Thus, St Paul urges us to "maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3), for peace - with the unity, concord and harmony that it entails - is a sign of the Spirit at work in our lives and in our Christian communities. Therefore, Christ said: "you will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16), and one fruit St Paul desired for his churches, and which we pray for repeatedly, at every Mass, is peace.

Lawrence Lew OP


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