A Reflection for the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C).
Isaiah 66:10-14 – Galatians 6:14-18 – Luke 10:1-12, 17-20.
Today we celebrate God’s gift to us of His peace. He promises us: Now towards her [Jerusalem] I send flowing peace, like a river, and like a stream in spate the glory of the nations (1R v.12). There is no better time than now for us to hear this prophecy about the prospect of God’s peace flowing into our lives. We need so much to hear it, don’t we? Isaiah was prophesying when the people of God were still awaiting the Messiah’s coming. They were wearied by wars, they had lost their loved ones, their dreams had been shattered, their national sovereignty had been taken away, right religion had been belittled, and Temple worship of God was no longer possible. There they were, stuck miles and miles away from home, wretched in captivity, with their personal lives turned upside down. Desolation stalked these people, who felt that all was lost.
What they needed, and were about to receive, was God’s gift to them of salvific peace. So do we! Isaiah’s prophetic words are timely in the wake of the events of the last couple of years, which were designed to frighten people into compliance and to spread fear insidiously into every part of our lives. The nations of the Western world are bedevilled by a blizzard of problems, including the prospect of economic wipe-out. People are finding it increasingly challenging to make ends meet and to take care of their families. Some people are having to think of giving their beloved pets away, because the money to feed and care for them properly is simply not there. While all these things are happening to us, our attention is being diverted towards the war between two superpowers on Ukrainian soil. Who knows what’s going to happen next? The world was on the brink several times in the 20th century. Will the world go over the edge in the 21st? The prospect is terrifying: how we yearn for the gift of God’s peace today.
Courage! (2Sam 10:12). There is some good news. What is it? It’s that the prophecy of Isaiah is for us too! God promises that His peace will flow to us like a river once more, and that your heart will rejoice (1R v.14) when it happens. The prophecy was made over Jerusalem as the literal and spiritual city of God, that the city would receive this gift of divine peace, and that all who dwelt in it would be comforted and protected.
What does ‘Jerusalem’ stand for? It stands for ‘the place of peace’, for ‘the city of God as the abode of divine peace’. Our understanding of this prophecy should go beyond the simplistic view of the bustling modern city where the three monotheistic religions bump up against each other, to the New Jerusalem that is Heaven, where God is. When God declares that ‘His peace will flow to Jerusalem’, His message is that His divine peace will engulf all those who long for it, who look for it, who are on the alert to welcome and receive it.
The word of God assures us that Jesus is our peace (Eph 2:14). It is in Jesus that our peace is to be found. That being so, ‘the abode of peace’ is wherever Jesus Christ is. God’s peace comes to those who desire and welcome Jesus into their hearts. You can develop a relationship with Jesus through the sacred scriptures, you can experience Him when you meditate upon what you read there, and you can encounter Him in the beauty of His creation including in people and in living things. You can also experience Jesus’ peace whenever you come into church to pray, to participate in Holy Mass, or to ‘just be’ before the tabernacle.
In these especially challenging times to be alive, we all feel an urgent desire to have our souls filled with divine peace. Jesus eradicates emotional chaos within us and, by extension, within the world, when we purposefully set aside the time to step back and seek His guidance regarding His way to deal with challenges. Nowadays the world is swamped by torrents of injustice, inhumanity, hate, war, division, and insecurity Nonetheless, humanity continues to yearn for peace and to hope in God’s promise of peace. If we listen out for God, then we can make out His comforting word: “I will send peace flowing to you like a river.” When God says this, we know that He means to use instruments to restore His peace to the world. That’s where we come in!
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus sent 72 disciples out in teams (cf. Deut 17:6) to function as Jesus’ presence wherever they went. The Kingdom of God is present both in Jesus’ ministry and in their ministry. Like them, we have to go out for Him, as labourers to the harvest, to bring divine peace to those who are lacking it in themselves, in their families and in their neighbourhoods. We are called to be messengers of Christ’s peace, called to work towards the New Jerusalem, heaven on earth. We have a significant contribution to make (if only we will volunteer), because we have the capacity to bear Christ and His message of divine peace wherever we go. Let us put the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi into practice: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. May the peace and mercy of God be upon all of us. Amen. God bless you.