Peace is the Word

Peace is the word.

I’m not able to tie this up in a pretty bow at this point, but maybe because this Sunday’s gospel reading was the one where Jesus says he’s here not to bring peace, but division, I wanted to share this thing from our retreat this summer even if it’s unfinished.

Do you ever get hit over the head with a theme?

When April and I went to Assisi for our 30th anniversary marriage retreat, I knew we were going back to a place called “The City of Peace,” because its most famous resident, St. Francis, was known as a peacemaker. In fact he used to wish everyone “Peace and goodness” as his standard sign off. And when we first really went to Assisi eight years ago, the theme that came out of that time for me was “Peacemaker,” which I had mostly forgotten. So that’s some context.

We got to Assisi June 30th. 

  • That Saturday, July 2, was the feast of Mary Queen of Peace. As it happened, when we were praying at the church that stands on the site of Francis’ assumed childhood home, what I was struck by was the need for peacemaking in our lives and world.
  • The next day, July 3, the homily at mass in the basilica of San Francesco was on the importance of peace as the goal of the Gospel mission.
  • The next day was July 4, which is the feast day of St. Elizabeth of Portugal, a Franciscan who was known as a peacemaker among royal powers. They don’t celebrate US Independence Day in Italy, not surprisingly, so their readings for mass weren’t the ones in my American prayer book. Those Americans ones were:
    • Isaiah 57:15-19, which ends: “Peace, peace to those far and near, said the Lord, and I will heal them.”
    • Psalm 85, which includes, “he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants,” and “Love and faithfulness meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other.”
    • Philippians 4:6-9, which is one of those “Don’t be anxious about anything” passages that includes “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus….Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it in practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
    • John 14:23-29, which has “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”
    • And I also happened to look at the prayers in the front of that prayer book, which included this one from St. Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”):

May Christ banish from the souls of men and women whatever might endanger peace.

May he transform all people into witnesses of truth, justice and love.

May Christ illumine with his light the minds of rulers, so that, besides caring for the proper material welfare of their peoples, they may also guarantee them the fairest gift of peace.

Finally, may Christ inflame the desires of all people

to break through the barriers which divide them,

to strengthen the bonds of mutual love,

to learn to understand one another,

and to pardon those who have done them wrong.

Through Christ’s power and inspiration

may all peoples welcome each other

to their hearts as brothers and sisters,

and may the peace they long for

ever flower and ever reign among them.

  • The next day was July 5, and the book about Francis I was reading had this tidbit: “The only way to peace is to achieve peace of heart, peace of soul.”
  • The next day was July 6, and a different part of that book had this: “But peace came when I stopped blaming others…and accepted myself, again, as I am, at a deeper level.”
  • And then on July 8, the Gospel reading for the day was Matthew 10:7-15, which includes: “As you enter a home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.”

I don’t mean to say that peace is the only thing; this was one of about five or six major themes that emerged over this two-week retreat.  But it got to the point that I was laughing out loud each time yet another external reference to peace that I hadn’t been looking for jumped out at me. I may not be clear on what to do with it, but I got it, God. 

Peace is the word.

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