Christ’s gift of peace and the family

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde at the Vigil Mass for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, at the Knights of Columbus Annual Virginia State Meeting, Dulles Hyatt Hotel in Herndon.

A person about to die speaks from the heart to those whom he or she loves and treasures. So, as we hear today's Gospel passage - and other Gospel passages on the Sundays after Easter, we are receiving the deepest thoughts and desires of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In Saint John's Gospel, from which these Gospel passages are taken, chapters thirteen through seventeen record the words of Jesus Christ at the Last Supper in the Upper Room, hours before He would suffer and die for our salvation.

The Gospel passage just proclaimed in our hearing projects before us the Lord Jesus speaking to our hearts from His. He tells us about the intrinsic connection between loving Him and keeping - obeying - His word. If we do love Him and keep His Word, He and the Father will make their dwelling within us. He speaks to us about the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send us in His name, teaching us everything and reminding us of all that He told them - and now us. Then, He speaks of peace - His gift to us. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you."

How much we desire and need to hear His Words, especially today - within our families, within each parish family, in the Church, in our country and in our world! The peace of which Christ speaks means: living in the right relationship with God, with others and with oneself. When these relationships are in place, we experience an inner peace and a sense of order and harmony.

How is this peace discovered or obtained? How do these right relationships develop? Who is it that helps us to be at peace, to be open to God, to admit our weakness and sin and to struggle against these with God's help, to be strong and hopeful and loving, to have a right relationship with God, others and self? The One who helps us is the Advocate, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit whom God the Father sends in the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the source of Christ's peace - the peace that Christ wishes and gives. This is why Jesus says: "Not as the world gives do I give it to you." How does the world give? Through compromises, agreements, treaties, etc. How does Christ give peace to us? Through the Holy Spirit, Who is given to us at Baptism and Confirmation.

How do we let the Holy Spirit bring us this kind of peace? How do we become peace-filled? By becoming open, more and more, to the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit within us. We need to renew the graces of Confirmation, asking the Holy Spirit to unite us more closely to Christ, to strengthen us to hear and to keep God's Word, and to bear witness to the Truth, which Jesus teaches us in His Word, through the Living Tradition of the Church and through the Magisterium.

The more open to the Holy Spirit we are, the more able we are to understand God's Word and His Will, to keep His Word. "Whoever loves me will keep My Word. … The Holy Spirit will teach you everything and remind you of all I told you." The more open to the Holy Spirit we are, the more we are able to see what we never saw before. "The city had no need of sun or moon … its lamp was the Lamb" There the Lamb is, there too is the Holy Spirit. The more open to the Holy Spirit we are, the more we are able to receive Christ's peace and become peace-makers.

Will it work - this openness to the Holy Spirit? The proof is found in today's First Reading: dissension and controversy in the church of Antioch was resolved through the power of the Holy Spirit: "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us."

The Holy Spirit is the way to real peace, the peace that Christ wishes and gives. Only in becoming more aware of His presence and power within us, only in making room for this Holy Spirit to act within us, only in following the lead and direction of the Holy Spirit can we discover how full of purpose is Christ's farewell: Peace, and how rich is Christ's gift: Peace.

Where is the place or setting in which we learn how to live out in practice the gift of Christ's peace? Is it not within the family, within what we call the domestic Church? In our relationships with one another, as husband and wife, as father and mother, as parents and children, as siblings, here is where we live out in practice the gift of Christ's peace, with the transforming help of the Holy Spirit.

Family life is both a privilege and, also a challenge. Each human person inherits the effects of the first sin, Original Sin. So, we need assistance beyond our own effort; we need supernatural grace.

So, within the family circle, we must pray: of course, individually, when we awake, offering the whole day to God as a spiritual oblation; when we prepare for sleep, both thanking God for the good He has accomplished through us and seeking His forgiveness for the times we did not heed His voice and do His will. We should also pray as a couple, as family, especially before and after meals, the holy rosary, or reflecting on God's Word together. All prayer is done with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, for no one can say "Jesus Christ is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit. Our prayer will render us more able to receive Christ's peace, to share Christ's peace, to seek forgiveness when we are not at peace, and to restore peace.

The family is the place where understanding of the faith and practice of the faith grows and deepens. We bishops stated in 2012: "The family, called the domestic Church, is often the first place where one experiences and is formed in the faith" (cf. Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization, p. 13). Peace is strengthened when it is solidly rooted in our precious Catholic faith.

The family is the place where vocations are born, nurtured and developed: vocations to the priesthood, to the consecrated life of religious sister and religious brother, to the permanent diaconate and to marriage. Peace is experienced in living out our God-given vocation, whatever it is, with fidelity and perseverance.

The parish is realistically a community of families. So, the stronger the family in faith, in charity, in witness, so too will the parish be likewise the stronger. I applaud the initiative which our Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and our Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori, have urged us to put into practice: "Building the Domestic Church While Strengthening the Family." As our families become recipients and sharers of Christ's Peace, so too will each parish radiate this gift of the Risen Christ to everyone. Where Christ's Peace is, there is Christ's Mercy! I urge each council within our beloved Commonwealth to put into practice, in every way possible, the various segments and proposals of "Building the Domestic Church While Strengthening Our Parish." The Holy Family is our model, and soon we shall beseech their intercession for us during this Holy Mass.

In every Eucharist, we pray for peace. In this Eucharist, let us ask more sincerely and more earnestly that the Holy Spirit be more present to us, so that through the power of His presence, we discover and live with what we want most: Peace - Christ's peace - today, tomorrow and always within each family, the domestic church, and within each parish, the community of families. Amen.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016