The Peace of God
We all want peace and quiet. Perhaps it’s one of the things we most look forward to about death, the ‘eternal rest’ and the ‘perpetual light’, no more tears, no more sorrow. At least that is our hope. Yet, peace is also promised us, in some measure at least, here. Writing to the Colossians, St Paul says: ‘May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts.’ Furthermore, he tells us why: ‘because it was for this that you were called together in one body.’ (Col 3: 15)
In fact, the New Testament doesn’t seem to encourage us to search for peace, though St Peter does exhort his readers: ‘He who would love life and see good days, let him seek peace and pursue it.’ These, however, are not St Peter’s own words but are a quotation from Psalm 34. Peace, in New Testament thinking, is that quality which enters our lives, almost imperceptibly, as a consequence of living in right relationship with the Almighty. So we do not seek for peace as such, but the God of peace, by loving the things which will bring us peace. Seek God and you will find peace. We must first want God — though I think that the soul who wants God, has God. Only we don’t always know it, let alone, feel it.
As Christians, we seek God through the Son, whom Paul calls the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation…reconciling us to Himself, making peace by the blood of the Cross. ‘He is our peace,’ Paul tells us, and this peace is ours, not as a result of any striving on our part, but as coming from our acceptance in faith of the saving work of redemption wrought by our Lord. Again, we may not always feel it with any special heat or intensity, though sometimes, after a really good confession, we may do so. Yet we cannot measure the depth of our peace by any sensible feelings. St Francis de Sales would often warn his readers against seeking ‘sensible consolations in prayer’. Seek not the consolations of God, but the God of consolation!
Of course, with the growth of Christ’s peace, we have to be prepared to endure the destruction of any false sense of peace, usually through suffering of some kind. This may leave us feeling that we have lost our sense of peacefulness, especially if external storms (circumstances and emotions) are raging around us. When these pass, we can find that we emerge strengthened and purified, with peace more deeply established, no longer dependent on anything other than the Lord.
‘Seek Peace and pursue it.’ But how to do this? I think, by entering into the peace that is already ours in Christ, and to renew those three Theological Virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity. Our prayers can be full of the seeking of God, especially if we use the Psalms: ‘O God, you are my God, for you I long…’ or ‘As the deer yearns for running streams, so my soul longs for you my God.’ The Psalter is full of such beautiful aspirations.
Following the example of our own St Philip, we should cultivate a true and loving devotion to the Holy Spirit, who will bring us, among other gifts and fruits, the peace of God. And as God’s peace enters into us, so we enter more fully into God.
Holy Spirit, give us for our hallowing, thoughts which pass into prayer, prayer which passes into love, and love which passes into life with Thee for ever. Amen.
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