Sunday, March 14, 2010

4th Sunday of Lent

Early on in the life of the Church, a phrase developed amongst Catholic authors. We are to be in the world but not of the world. We are to be in the world: our lives, our work, our families and our responsibilities. We are to not be of the world: of its values, its vision, and its decisions. It was this vision of Catholic life that inspired Saint Paul to say: “We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

So the spirit of this world and the spirit of Christ are opposed and at odds. In the days of Jesus, this was seen most strikingly in the rule of the Pagan Roman Empire. The emperors ruled from the Atlantic to the Euphrates, from the Alps to the Sahara and there was an absence of fighting, peace. But this peace of the Romans was not based on reconciliation, on forgiveness, or on unity. The Pax Romana, the peace of the Romans was founded on military might and the fear of reprisal.

There was peace in the Roman Empire, but it was the stillness of fear. Fear that if you attacked Rome: whether from within or from without that you would be destroyed; your soldiers, your families, your villages would all be destroyed. This is not peace. It is in this culture that St. Paul represents himself as an emissary, an ambassador of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.

Do we think of the peace of Jesus Christ- Pax Christi? Look at the famous parable today of the ungrateful sons and the faithful father. When the youngest son decides to return, he is thinking in the values and visions of this world. “I cheated my father, I wished he was dead, and so he would never forgive me for that. If I wish to live,” he thinks, “I must live as his slave because I killed him as my father.” Yet this would bring the Pax Romana, the fearful peace of reprisal- what if my father will do to me what I did to him?

When we approach confession, do we approach with a vision of the Pax Romana or of the Pax Christi? Do we believe that Jesus will forgive us for doing wrong because of His own integrity of person? Or do we fear that He will yell and push and throw us out? The younger son feared his father because he didn’t know his father- his own sin blinded him to think that his father was no different than he was, eager for vengeance. The father forgives the son, not because of anything the son did but because of who the father is; and the father is love. The father “died” to let his son go free and he “dies” again to bring him back.

Because sin blinds us, we fear the Pax Christi, the Christian vision of life. We fear that there is no forgiveness for us. We fear that He who died to set us free will not set Himself aside again so we may come back. How can we speak of peace, pray for peace, work for peace unless we know peace?

Here are two ways to grow in the Peace of Christ and to leave behind the peace of this world. First, go to confession. That way we live out the petition of the Our Father: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It is much easier to forgive those who hurt us if we know His forgiveness. Go to confession at least once a year if not once a month. On Psalm Sunday, there will be six priests at St. Thomas More to hear your confession.

What about our sign of peace at Mass? How do we use it? Is it a 7th inning stretch? A chance to slap our buddies on the back, make plans for Cook’s Kitchen? Or is it an extension of our prayer, an extension of the Pax Christi that was won on the cross? I urge you, don’t simply say “peace,” but say “the peace of Christ.” Remind others of their need for the peace of Christ and remind yourself that your own peace is little more than the absence of action under the threat of violence unless you too know the Pax Christi.

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