14th Sunday C – Peace to this House

In the forties and fifties Ireland, religion was huge and the Catholic Church loomed large in people’s lives. Everyone said they believed in God and went to Mass and confession. The church was a major part of the social fabric of life. In the intervening years things have monumentally changed. The 1968 papal ruling on birth control triggered a sizeable departure from the church and prompted many more people to question various church teachings and practices. Over the time the experience of Mass-going became empty and aimless for young people. The more recent clergy abuse scandals have added to the winter of discontent and driven people to reject even the existence of God. Ireland, like many European countries, is now atheistic.

Like a son comforted by his mother will I comfort you – Isaiah 66. The lilting words of joyful anticipation and hope in the first reading from Isaiah were spoken to people who had returned from exile in Babylon only to find their city in ruins. The clouds of war and want that threaten our world today cannot but bring gloom and intimations of doom. But the gospel offers a glimmer of light as we see Jesus sending seventy-two disciples to preach a message of hope and peace. We are told that the seventy-two came back rejoicing. Happiness turns up more or less where you’d expect it to – a good marriage, a rewarding job, a pleasant vacation. Joy, on the other hand, is as notoriously unpredictable as the one who bequeaths it. The joy of the gospel is unmerited, unearned, unmanufactured, and comes from personal encounter with Christ.

That same gospel with its message of hope and peace is offered to us today and to our world. Jesus promised to be with us always and said that God will never abandon us. That’s the hope that foils the despondency around us, the light that shines in the darkness of our world. We reveal the light of Christ by how we live: when we reach out joyfully to encourage and help, offer a glass of cold water, go the extra mile, bring a smile to someone’s face…. Why do religious people tend to look as if they are at a funeral, or as if it’s Ash Wednesday asks Pope Francis? Joy, he says over and over, is a hallmark of the gospel. There’s a church in California that neighbours and passers-by have said they want to join because they see people smiling when they come out of Mass.

Peace, like joy, comes from being touched by God. ‘Peace to this house!’ they said as they brought the good news of the gospel with them. ‘Shalom’ is more than peace of mind or a ceasefire between enemies. Shalom means fullness, everything you need in order to be wholly and happily yourself. Peace, which the world cannot give, is a deeper kind of gift and blesses us with a sense of inner connection to God, to humanity and to all creation. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you” – John 14: 27. With the blessing and gift of ‘shalom’ comes the feeling of being one with the whole web of life and its divine source. The seventy-two came back rejoicing at the result of their mission. People who see Christians filled with peace and joy will want to join them.

Fr. QQ – 06/30/2022

 

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