Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Pathway to Peace (Advent IV.C)

Our Friday morning men’s prayer group celebrated Mass together at 6 a.m. last week. Like other members of the group, I invited some men in the parish to join us.

I was surprised by those who turned down the invitation because they were busy. Not because they didn’t want to be in church so early, but because they already had a work commitment at the crack of dawn.

Think about that. None of these men was a coal miner or a taxi driver or a doctor in the emergency room, but all of them were expected to be on duty shortly after most people wake up.

We can’t just blame their nasty bosses in Toronto. Many of us are living in the eye of a hurricane of busy-ness, whether we’re in business, managing a home, or serving a parish.

Is it any wonder that the Friday morning group chose “peace” as a theme for our Advent Mass?

Peace is a word that rings in our ears. Our hearts long for it, even if we aren’t entirely sure what it is.

In our first reading today, the prophet Micah doesn’t tell us what peace is; he announces who peace is. Writing at a time of political disaster and impending doom, he promises security from the Messiah who will be born in Bethlehem.

But he doesn’t say the Messiah will bring peace; he will be peace.

St. Paul says the same thing about 700 years later, when he tells the Ephesians that Christ Jesus “is our peace.” (Eph. 2:14)

Many people today seek peace through techniques. You can find dozens of books online that promise peace through deep breathing, yoga, or something called mindfulness training. Much of this is rooted in Eastern or New Age methods.

But only Christianity promises peace as a person—Someone on whom we can unload our limitations, our sorrows, our shortcomings, our imperfect spouses and children, our bad health, our fears—all of the ordinary “stuff” which we allow to rob us of our peace.

The security and peace promised to us in Christ comes from surrendering control of our lives to Him—not asking him to change everything we’re dealing with, but asking him to change us.

In our second reading, Jesus himself accepts God’s will, in an act of total surrender to the Father. None of can make such a complete sacrifice of ourselves, but all of us, made holy by Christ’s sacrifice, are also called to surrender ourselves to the will of God.

Doing God’s will can be as simple as bearing with the trials life sends us, uniting them to the supreme sacrifice of Christ through the Mass, through a morning offering, and by accepting them.

What does God’s will mean for you this week? For some, it might be accepting without complaint the arrival of a mother-in-law who likes to say “that’s not really how we stuff a turkey in our family…”

It might be bearing with the loneliness that comes from missing a departed loved one at Christmastime. Maybe we need to resist family social events that will make it all but impossible to come to Mass on Christmas.

For me, it will be finding time to pray during this wild week, trying to find time to write a good homily for Friday while getting to Costco before Thursday.

God’s will is different for each of us, but God’s peace is the same for all of us—Christ, who is our peace. Christ, born in Bethlehem, Christ, coming anew at Christmas.

The famous Serenity Prayer may be just what we need to help us understand how we are to accept God’s will and find the peace that Jesus promises, a peace the world cannot give, even at Christmas.

Let me close with its power-filled words:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.   Amen.

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