My dear friends,
As we work and pray our way towards, and then through the season of Lent to its summit in the events of the Passion, I have found myself thinking repeatedly of those words of Christ to Jerusalem, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes”.
When Christ speaks of peace, this is something light years away from reluctant truce or even a respite from open violence, but something which has fullness and completeness within itself, not an absence but a presence. Peace in its biblical sense means a wholeness and harmony, and in three contexts - within ourselves, in our relationships with those around, and in our relationship with God.
The core of inward peace is surely integrity in both senses of that word, integrity in terms both of truthfulness and of one-ness. Being honest about ourselves and to ourselves is one of the greatest and hardest virtues to grasp. And integrity in the other sense is also one of the finest of personal strengths - being a single undivided person, without compartments and divisions within ourselves, when we are no longer one thing to one person, and quite something else to another person.
And in our relationships with others, what brings us peace? There is the enormous price-tag of accepting others as they are, not as we want them to be. Other people were not created in our image, but in the image in which God created them. But it is the height of foolishness to imagine that any peace comes cheap or that it can be painless. Peace in relationships means the systematic and ruthless destruction of so much that comes so easily to us - the cherished resentment, the petty ambition, the wilful pride - all which can stop us from accepting others as they are.
But for our Lord, there was only one root for peace, whether we mean peace within ourselves or peace in our relationships, peace within nations, or peace between nations. This root is peace with God. Immediately after the resurrection, Christ greets his disciples with that single wonderful word – “Peace” - as he shows them the marks of his crucifixion. Right through the New Testament, the message comes across in different contexts and in different language that the only basis for peace with God is in the cross of Christ, which has bridged that chasm between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of humankind.
We pray for peace every Sunday - peace between countries, peace in our country, peace in the Church, peace in our homes, peace in our hearts. Perhaps we've made peace a cliché. If we have done that, is it because we do not believe that it should actually cost us anything? We want it to be easy and to be free of charge. But the basis of any true peace is a peace with God, rooted in the cross of Christ, the climax of this coming Lent and of every Lent.
In the peace of Christ