Today in the Gospel of Luke Jesus said that He didn’t , in fact, come to bring peace but division. That we could expect that parents would be set against their children and vice versa and we shouldn’t be surprised when that happens. Just yesterday our readings at Mass re-echoed the theme of ‘peace’ at least a dozen times. So how are we to understand what God is saying to us here? Did Jesus indeed come to bring peace on earth, as the angels told the shepherds the night He was born, or does the Word (Jesus) divide sharper than any two-edged sword, as Scripture tells us elsewhere?
The answer is Yes. As with most teachings of our Faith, the answer is both/and, not either/or. Yes, Jesus came to bring peace, the peace that passes understanding. This is not a peace to that can be equated with the ‘tolerance’ that passes for peace that this world has to give. Like everything else that isn’t from God, the world’s peace is a facade, a fake peace.
We’re told to just simply get along, don’t rock the boat, keep our mouths shut and, at all costs, don’t get Aunt Jane all riled up at Thanksgiving dinner. Then there will be peace. No, then there will be quiet, which is not always a bad thing! But there will not be true peace. What eventually results from tolerance is a veneer of peace, which is fool’s gold. Like ignorant miners, we believe that being tolerant means that we have pockets full of the gold which is peace when, in fact, all we end up carrying around is resentment and bitterness spray painted with enough tolerance to make them shiney.
In his famous Peace Prayer, St Francis of Assisi prays that “where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope.” None of those requests include tolerance because St. Francis knew, as every saint knew, that what Jesus said in Luke’s Gospel today is true. The only way to the true peace that made the angels sing is through the agony of calling hatred, injury, doubt and despair by their real names. Once we debride a wound, healthy tissue can grow. If the infection in the wound is simply covered up, no healing will occur. In fact, the wound will get worse. By refusing to call sin by its correct name, the our infected souls rot.
What we understand on a physical level seems incomprehensible to most people today on a spiritual level. In order to obtain true peace, we will need to look deeply into our own souls and homes and churches and debride the infections of self-satisfaction, resentment and fear that we’ve allowed to fester. Once we admit and confess our hatreds and doubts and despair, we are in a position to allow Jesus, who is our Peace as St Paul says, to heal the wounds we have and, eventually, we will possess the Peace the world cannot give.