Peace Be With You, Now and Forever

The bumper sticker read, “Peace is a practice.” The driver likely pasted the sticker on their vehicle as a statement about war but Sally and I agreed that the statement fell far short of capturing the essence, and power, of peace as a concept. One can’t really “practice” peace; it is a result, an outcome of choices made – yours or others. Merriam Webster describers it as “freedom from disturbance, tranquility” – these are not things we can create. Sure, we can choose to behave “peacefully” or seek to calm ourselves, possibly fostering a tranquil state of mind, but real peace is born as a fruit of other things planted.

Fifty months ago, I wrote a post entitled “Peace Be With You.” Here are the opening paragraphs:

Attending Mass this morning, I noticed the social distancing. No handshakes. No holy water. Looking closely at the faces gathered in the Sanctuary, I noticed something else: no fear. Ignorant bliss? I don’t think so. It looked a lot like a sense of peace.

We’ll be studying this moment in time for years to come. From a sociological perspective, it is incredibly fascinating. The human reaction to stress placed on the collective system ranges from irritation at the pandemonium to sheer panic. Depending on what sources you are following, you may feel that the world is ending or that all reports are completely overblown. Wherever you fall on the reaction spectrum, indifference does not seem to be an option.

As with most things, somewhere in between seems to be the right place to be. Moderation in our reactions. Moderation in our protections. Moderation in our consumption of the headlines. Well, perhaps we should tilt toward less with regard to the headlines.

Remember March 2020? Wars around the world were no longer an issue. We had just begun a war within and among ourselves. Our world was on fire in the headlines, in our social media, and a bit later, in our streets. Fear was rampant. Fear of COVID. Fear of social unrest. Fear of political unrest. Fear of the unknown. There was little peace and we were melting down. Bill, my friend who runs a beach rentals business in Miramar Beach, FL said it well, “We’re going to learn a lot about ourselves.”

I wrote that 2020 post from Miramar Beach, FL and I’m thinking of Bill this morning as I write this post from the same place. On May 19, 2024, we’re in a very different place from a COVID perspective, our collective sense of peace is still elusive. Even as the pervasive fears of the pandemic’s unknowns and the worst they might bring have subsided, we still find ourselves living with great unrest in our social and political environment, locally and abroad.

In the Catholic Church, today is Pentecost, the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church as the Apostles were sent forth to spread Christ’s Gospel, the Good News of His death and resurrection. In the Catholic tradition, Peace is considered one of the 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit; resultant states of being when the Spirit is “upon us.”

How do we bring the fruits of the Holy Spirit upon us? The person with the “Peace is a practice” bumper sticker may have inadvertently stumbled upon part of the answer. We cannot produce our own peace but we can choose to live in such a way that bears the fruit of the Spirit. In his homily for today, Bishop Robert Barron challenges us to do the things that foster such fruits.

What brings you peace? Where do you find harmony? There are things we can do and there are ways we can be. We can put ourselves in physical places that foster peace, we can act in ways that invite peace, and we can fill our lives with things that generate peace or dispel it. Are your days frenetic? Are you in a job you hate? Do you feel like you don’t spend enough time with your children? Do you feel like your time or what you purchase lines up with what is most important? When our days and choices don’t align with what is most important to us, there is no room for peace.

Four years later, we head into another contentious election cycle. There are real wars in many parts of the world. Unrest continues in our own backyards. Amid it all, many of us are struggling to find peace. Are we losing it in the vast ocean of angst that sits outside of any possible influence we might have? Conversely, is peace eluding us in our own backyard due to our inability to make the choices that invite harmony into it?

Look around you today and consider the many pathways available to invite peace into your life. You cannot fabricate it but you can open yourself to it. Many things have changed since 2020 but most remain the same. What have we learned? What are we doing about it?

Showing 3 comments
  • Jerry Berry
    Reply

    Profound reflection Phillip, it is truly up to us to make it happen isn’t it!

  • Jarilyn Berry
    Reply

    Love this reflection.

  • Jaime Borkowski
    Reply

    I love this line: “When our days and choices don’t align with what is most important to us, there is no room for peace.” Really makes me stop to think about what I do with my time. I very much agree with this.

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