“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” Jesus spoke these words at the Last Supper as part of a long discourse given just before He went to Gethsemane to begin His agony. (John 14:27) These were not just words meant to be uplifting: before He went into the Garden He left the great gift which above all else connects us to Him, and hence, to the peace only He can give. That is, He left us the Eucharist. In His prayerful discourse that night Jesus made it clear that we do not have to wait until Heaven for peace, but that He intends it for this life. It makes me wonder, then, why we are so slow to grasp or accept the gift we have been given for the here and now. How often we spend our lives searching for peace and yet we already have it in and through Jesus Christ! As He said, this peace cannot be found in anything worldly, but it is the peace only God can give, and as such, it is found in Him. Rather than to simply instruct us to seek it, Jesus provided an everlasting gift at the very moment when He blessed and broke the bread.
The peace of Christ is found in the Eucharist; everything we need for our spiritual wellbeing, as well as the graces we need to live the Christian life in a turbulent world, is found there. However, these graces need to be cultivated through prayer if we want to grow in holiness and in the peace He alone can give. Without a personal relationship with Jesus, peace would be fleeting because it would lack grounding in the trust that grows through time spent with the God of Love and Mercy. It is through prayer that we learn to recognize the presence of Jesus, graces offered, and are enabled in discerning the path to which we are called. Prayer ‘grows’ our trust in Him which in turn enlivens the peace Jesus gives. His peace is unshakeable: it remains deep within us no matter what we are going through. In other words, having peace does not mean we will not suffer, but that when we do, we trust that He is present in the midst of whatever it is we are dealing with. This peace is not something one feels, but it is His deep abiding presence within our heart that protects us from giving into fear and despair.
Jesus gave His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity as an eternal gift, the source of all grace and peace. Let me put it another way: the consecrated Eucharist IS Jesus. Unless we believe that in reality Jesus is present after the priest says the words of institution and consecrates the bread and wine; unless we have the reverent belief to accept that we are in the very real presence of God when this happens, we cannot fully appreciate or experience the power and grace He offers. He made it clear that this peace is not to be found anywhere but in Him: “…my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” And He concludes with this: “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27) Notice that we have to choose to accept it as an act of humility and trust.
I once read about an atheist who said that if he believed what Catholics claim to believe about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist then he would have to be torn away from the altar because he would never want to leave something as beautiful and wonderful as that.* Thus, Catholics should love the Eucharist as he inferred. It would be beneficial to reflect upon the Blessed Sacrament. While none of us, (even the monks), can live in front of the Tabernacle 24/7, we can grow in reverence and love, taking what we ‘feast upon’ within the church out into the world when we leave the building. That is the entire point: Jesus wants us to have peace so that we also have the courage and strength to live our faith unashamedly and boldly without any fear of what might happen if we do. He wants us to be as Christ to others, becoming His hands and feet, offering His mercy and His love. The Eucharist fuels this because as the saying goes, we are what we eat.
The world is full of many deceptive claims for peace outside of Jesus. We are inundated with ideologies, practices, and messages that say power, money, and prestige can bring happiness, and hence peace. Unfortunately all of these are fleeting. It is not health or sickness, wealth or poverty, long life or short that determines our peace. It is in joining ourselves to Christ, accepting His gifts given through prayer and the sacraments, that we find peace and ultimately joy. Remember, the peace and subsequent joy offered by Jesus are interior dispositions and not feelings. We can be in outward difficulty or suffering, and still have peace. It is this peace that enabled saints like Padre Pio, who lived with constant physical and interior pain from betrayals and attacks, to still live with interior peace. So let us take Jesus at His word, accepting the gift of peace by immersing ourselves in the Eucharist. In it, everything we need is found because Christ Himself is present. There is no greater gift: All we need is found in Him!
May we cling to Jesus especially through the gift of His Body and Blood! May we immerse ourselves in prayer more readily so as to discern the path God has for our growth in holiness and our service in mercy to one another! And may we trust in Him to find the peace that only He can give! Let us meet in the Eucharist! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
* If anyone has any idea who said this, or to whom it was said, I would love to know. I cannot remember where I read this, though I am confident it was said to someone famous who then recorded it, perhaps a saint.
1. My photo, Matagorda Bay facing the shoreline. Matagorda, Texas.
2. Icon, Nuestro Salvador de las Sandias, by Fr. William Hart McNichols. This icon can be found in one of many mediums at fineartamerica.com/featured/nuestro-salvador-de-las-sandias-012-william-hart-mcnichols.html
3. Painting, inset of Chalice and Host by Jan Davidsz de Heem
4. Fresco painting, Resurrected Jesus, (close up) by Blessed Fra Angelico.
5. Painting, Olive Trees in Bordigher (1884), by Claude Monet.
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Heart Speaks to Heart