27 March 2011 Third Sunday of Lent
Exodus 17: 3-7; Psalm 95; Rom 5:1-8; John 4: 5-42
Note: This is a scheduled post. Every article for the 2011 Sundays of Lent and Easter published in this blog has been written long before the 11th of March 2011, the beginning of my 30-day retreat. The rest will come out at the date and time I have programmed it in Blogger. A big favor to ask: please pray for 8 Jesuits, including myself, doing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. My prayers also for all of you who have sustained me and encouraged me to blog since 2005.
Today, let us take the message from the 2nd reading. St. Paul writes to the Romans. He said that we are justified by faith and are at peace with God through our Lord. St. Paul shows that the Old Testament promise of a Savior and a Messiah is realized in Christ. This is the message of the Transfiguration last Sunday. The greatest figures of the Old Testament are witnesses of the Transfiguration of Christ. Moses with the Law and Elijah with the prophets. By His sufferings and death, Christ conquered sin. And thus, St. Paul says that Christ then reconciles all people, justifies all of us, and therefore brings peace between us and God. Sin destroys our relationship with the Lord, and therefore, when sin is overcome, then our relationship with God is restored.
But we all know that sin is not completely destroyed in each one of us. The objective of Lent is to help us see the venom of our own sins and how it destroys our relationship with ourselves, with others, with nature and with God. During this struggle of ours, Christ is our peace if we trust and follow Him. This was the message last Sunday, God says to us, “This is my beloved Son, on whom my favor rests. Listen to Him” (Matt 17:5).
Christ then is our peace and the source of grace. Peace is the message of the life of Christ. When Christ was born, peace was announced by the angels. Peace was declared by the disciples as Christ entered Jerusalem in a triumphant procession which we will remember on Palm Sunday. Even when He was rejected at his birth in Bethlehem or by the people in Jerusalem, He continued to offer peace.
He always say, “Go in peace” as a sign of farewell to those He has healed. “Go in peace” was His admonition that accompanied the grace of forgiveness when He absolved the sinner. In the name of peace, Christ commissioned his disciples to advance the frontiers of God’s kingdom when He sent the disciples to the towns and on His ascension into heaven. (Incidentally, do you recognize “Go in peace” at mass and at the Sacrament of Reconciliation?)
Where do we find this peace? St. Paul says that Christ is our peace because He establishes this peace in our hearts. He has reconciled us to God and to each other. And therefore, we cannot find peace until our hearts rests in God (St. Augustine).
When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, He said, “It is He who is our peace, and who made the two of us one by breaking down the barrier of hostility that kept us apart … reconciling both of us to God in one body through his cross, which put that enmity to death. He came and announced to the good news of peace to you who were far off, and to those who were near” (Eph 2: 14, 16, and 17).
In our hearts, the peace of Christ is stable. It does not rely on any other element but reconciliation with each other. Only when we are united in the Holy Spirit, with one heart and soul, do we find this peace since we are the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts: “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given us” (Rom 5:5). And by sharing His life, we have a stable peace: “Live in harmony and peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor 13:11).
In our lives, we are therefore encouraged to cooperate with this peace that the Lord has given in our hearts. We are to imitate God as a peacemaker (Matt 5:9). To do the best that we can to establish peace in the world is to imitate God. And thus, in the interest of peace, we use our time and talents to establish unity and tranquility in people’s lives.
This is very relevant in a world of war and conflict. Think of the unrest in this world and how a country in conflict affects others. Think Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt or Libya. Think of civil strife. Think of discontentment in our government. Reflect on disunity and disillusionment in the Church. Reflect on destroyed or strained relationships within our organizations and personal circles.
By working for peace, we can lead others to God. By working for people who are “not at peace” because of several reasons such as illnesses, hurts, or poverty, we can somehow help by visiting and providing opportunities to have someone to talk to. We can work to help those suffering from environmental calamities as a result of global warming. We can work for justice before God, by overcoming sin that always disturbs and destroys us. Or we can help restore justice in our society.
We can use this Season of Lent to ask this question: When have I become a source of peace? And when have I become a source of conflict and division? What have I done or have been doing to restore peace in the world, or in our own personal worlds, today?