Are you at peace, or is your heart troubled?
By Deacon Mike Bickerstaff
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be” (John 14:1-3).
On the occasion of the Last Supper, Jesus spoke these words to His Apostles—and to each of us. Jesus tells us that we should trust Him, have faith in Him, to place all our cares and anxieties on Him… “Do not let your hearts be troubled”—everything is going to be okay. He offers us a sanctuary in a world filled with danger.
In spite of these words directed lovingly from our God to each of us, many in the world today—and that might include you and me—have trouble really trusting in the Lord and His promise. Why is that?
Over the last few years, I have spoken to people who are greatly troubled at the state of the world. There is definitely a lack of peace in the world. The continued, uncertain economic conditions seem only to become more uncertain as job creation seems to be hit-and-miss. Families are under assault from without and within.
One person with whom I spoke quoted the above passage to me. She was quite genuine. Although she and her family were experiencing severe financial hardship, the entire family—from the youngest to the oldest—was focused in their concern to help lessen the hardships of others. They were not naive or irresponsible; they worked diligently to overcome their difficulties. But, they did not for one minute forget that God calls them to care for others, less fortunate than themselves. This family inspired me and I asked how they managed to keep an even keel… that is when the mother cited the verse from John’s Gospel. “Surrender… turn all your cares and anxieties over to the Lord and keep plugging along. If you don’t forget those Jesus sends to you, He will not forget you.”
Who is Really In Charge of Your Life
This family trusts the Lord with each breath. Again, why do so many others not do so? The reason, I believe, is very simple. We too often refuse, unlike this family, to simply surrender to Him. Maybe it is a part of our condition or our DNA makeup. I suspect this is true of many men I know. We tend to want to retain control. We view life in many ways as a series of problems to be solved. If you are like me, maybe you sometimes think that there is no one better suited to be the problem-solver than yourself. And so, the weight of the world seems to come down and rest on our shoulders, when it properly should rest first on His. Thus, the worth and import of Our Lord’s words are not properly understood.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27).
Again, He tells us to place our cares and weakness on Him. He will give us a peace that we can find nowhere else. If we place our trust and faith in ourselves, we will be disappointed and troubled. Man cannot give peace that is lasting because man changes. The reality is that God is not capable of change. It is a dogma of the Church that God is absolutely immutable; in Him there is no possibility of change. Otherwise He would not be God. So we can rely totally on God. We cannot rely on ourselves, our fellow man, our institutions and our governments. All of these are ultimately weak and subject to change.
Now I ask you to meditate on these passages and this truth. Place yourself in the very presence of your God Who has made His dwelling place in your very soul.
“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you… Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (John 14:18,23).
The phrase—“come to you”—is not an allusion to the end of time and the Second Coming—it refers to the indwelling of God in the soul of each believer that takes place at our Baptism. Father, Son and Holy Spirit prepare a dwelling place within you where they take up residence. We are not left on this earthly pilgrimage as orphans, but as sons and daughters of the Most High Who is always with us.
Now that is the Peace and Salvation that only God can give. This is the peace that this world needs to receive and embrace so urgently. How is the world to receive this Peace? What is our role?
Leaven in the World
The Second Vatican Council addressed this question:
“Coming forth from the eternal Father’s love, founded in time by Christ the Redeemer and made one in the Holy Spirit, the Church has a saving and an eschatological purpose which can be fully attained only in the future world. But she is already present in this world, and is composed of men, that is, of members of the earthly city who have a call to form the family of God’s children during the present history of the human race, and to keep increasing it until the Lord returns. United on behalf of heavenly values and enriched by them, this family has been “constituted and structured as a society in this world” by Christ, and is equipped “by appropriate means for visible and social union.” Thus the Church, at once “a visible association and a spiritual community,” goes forward together with humanity and experiences the same earthly lot which the world does. She serves as a leaven and as a kind of soul for human society as it is to be renewed in Christ and transformed into God’s family.” (Gaudium et spes 40.2; Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World; Vatican Council II)
Jesus founded and established His Church for the salvation of mankind. This Church can be properly understood as the Family of God and we who are baptized are its members, the adopted sons and daughters of God, Our Father. When we have faith in Christ, when we trust Him, we are the leaven that transforms the world. When we refuse this gift or lack the faith and trust to embrace it, it is we who are often instead transformed by the world.
All of this depends at a personal level on our relationship with God. Before we can become agents of God and assist in the transformation of the world, we must first surrender to Jesus, give Him our love and allow Him to transform us. And to do this, each of us must come to accept that there is one greater than ourselves who can solve our problems better than we can. It is in our acceptance of our weakness that Christ can make us strong and bring us to holiness.
So where to from here practically speaking?
- Be at peace; do not let your hearts be troubled. Surrender your cares… really surrender them and your whole life to Christ. Allow Him to transform your life.
- Love Him with your entire being. Jesus tells us: “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him” (John 14:21).
- Live the life of grace. You were given new life in Baptism, retain and strengthen that life through the Sacraments, particularly Reconciliation and receiving the Holy Eucharist.
- Set aside time to pray; that is, prime-time throughout the day to be in prayer with God. Don’t just allot to Him what time is left over, if any.
- Imitate the saints. Particularly cultivate a devotion to and love of the Blessed Mother whose child you are. Jesus chose her from among all women to be His mother and from the Cross He gave her to you. No one who truly loves the Son will neglect his mother.
- Be faithful to your vocation. For example, if you are a husband, wife, father, mother or child, recognize that it is in the family that the transformation of the world extends beyond yourself. In Matthew 6:33—“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.”—Jesus reminds us that whatever we face, we are to first seek the Kingdom of God. This is how we are to live out our particular vocation. When we allow God to transform us, then He will use us to transform the world around us.
- Integrate faith, family and work. Allow the life of faith to inform every aspect and area of your entire life: your family, your work, the market, the public square and how you respond to every person God places in your life.
- Trust in the Lord. In all things trust in the love and mercy and tender care of the Lord who loves you.
[Lord God] I believe in you, increase my faith. All my hopes are in you, secure my trust. I love you, teach me to love you more each day… I adore You as my first beginning, I long for You as my final end. I praise You as my constant helper, and call on You as my loving protector. Guide me by Your Wisdom, correct me with Your Justice, comfort me with Your Mercy, protect me by Your Power… Lord, enlighten my understanding, enflame my will, purify my heart, sanctify my soul. Help me to repent of my past sins and to rise above my human weaknesses and to grow stronger as a Christian… (excerpted from the Universal Prayer by Pope Clement XI)