Light of Peace
The second candle of Advent is the candle of peace. I would like to share some reflections on hope. My intention is that my words will not only help you celebrate the Advent season, but live the season deeply and bring it into the New Year.
Peace is important. Something we all struggle with from time to time. Things happen to us to knock us off balance and we lose our peace. We suffer a break up, face a break down, lose a loved one, a relationship blows up in our face, endure an illness, death and destruction bears down on us. In these times and others, when we need peace is when we lack it the most. We feel heart sick, soul lost, and physically weary. We suspect that if we could have some peace that we could face what the world gives us. Peace begins inside but must radiate out.
The great poet, Walt Whitman claimed, “Peace is always beautiful.” I like that. I like the idea that peace an inner phenomenon shows on the outside that when we are most at peace we are beautiful. Not just nice words but a reality we are invited to live out in our world. Marvin Gaye said, “If you cannot find peace within yourself, you will never find it anywhere else.”
I believe we move from hope to peace, because these two virtues are connected. When you have hope, peace would be the next logical step and by being peaceful hope is a natural outgrowth. They go so naturally together. I have struggled at times with being peaceful and not letting life’s up’s and down’s unsettle me. Not only do we need to be without anxiety and worry, but yearning too much for something can also steal our peace. If we let out emotions rule our life than we will be without peace. Peace is an active not a passive state, it is something to work for and deepen a choice and a way of life.
If we want peace, and I think we all want peace, then we must begin in our hearts and seek the peace we want there and extend it person to person until it encompasses the whole of the universe. Peace must begin with us, but not stop there to mean anything peace must be a response to life and extended to all in every moment in life. Peace is a smile, greeting a stranger, helping a hurting and needy person, passing on things such as knowledge, books, gifts, and time, sharing resources, and treating others how we ourselves would like to be treated. Peace is not weakness, but strength. Yet, we cannot extend peace to others if their hearts are closed and fists clenched. If they are not ready or willing to receive the peace we offer than we should move on and not let their unwillingness affect our peace.
Thomas Merton writes, “Peace cannot be built on exclusivism, absolutism, and intolerance. But neither can it be built on vague liberal slogans and pious programs gestated in the smoke of confabulation. There can be no peace on earth without the kind of inner change that brings man back to his “right mind.” I like that too. For me Merton was saying that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the true engine to the peace all of us seek. On our own, we cannot achieve the peace, the life that we want, but with God, all things are possible. Jesus has done what we can never do. Trust Jesus and peace will be ours. That is what this season is about. It is not about getting things or buying things, it about realizing the awesome gift that is already ours because of who Jesus is and what Jesus does and did for us.
Before we can attain world peace, we must realize our own inner peace first, then we will see the change we want, maybe it’s just a change in lighting the candle or it could be a change in the world and the eyes that we use to see. As we light, the candle of peace we pray for the chance to obtain first inner peace and secondly outer peace. In doing this we recognize that we don’t often posses the peace that we long for, the peace that will transform our lives and the world. By inner peace, I don’t mean to sound selfish. I am speaking about a way of perceiving and being in the world, understanding that we don’t have control over what happens only how we respond to it. We chose the attitude we bring to life. We can chose to be positive or negative to smile or to frown, to direct our energies out or in. I have seen that when I fret over not having the things I want and being depressed about lacking the peace I want I feel small, sad, and unsettled. Yet, I ask and pray to be an instrument of God’s will and more able to respond to life in healthy and sane ways.
Philippians 4: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.