Jesus promises us peace.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
And yet, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of peace! Where is the peace that Jesus promises us?
We see lack of peace in the first reading we had today from the Acts of the Apostles. There we heard about the Council of Jerusalem — which was a very pivotal moment in early Church history where some people in the Church were saying “No, no no! All these new converts who are not Jewish — they need to follow the WHOLE Mosaic law. They need to be following the whole Law just like us good Jews…” And then the other part of the Church was saying: “No, I don’t think so. We’ve been saved by grace! — Not the Law! We’ve ALL been saved — Jew and non-Jew alike — by faith in the Lord Jesus!”
So, as we heard in the reading — “There arose no little dissension and debate.”
There was “lack of peace” it would seem… there was division. Disagreements. There were some people on one side, and some on the other. ..
They were trying to figure out what God’s will actually was.
What does God actually want?
What does the Holy Spirit… want?
Dissension. Debate. Lack of peace. Where is the peace that Jesus promised?
Church history is a really good thing to know something about. Because if you look at Church history, you find that there have been countless moments like this, pretty much every step of the way.
There’s been no little dissension! And no little debate over crucial questions of theology.
There were questions about the nature of Jesus. Who is he? What does it mean for us to “believe in Him?” Does that mean he’s God? Is he truly man? Was he just the appearance of a ghost or spirit?
These are all questions that there arose no little dissension and debate over in the early Church.
One of the BIGGEST heresies of history was Arianism. Arian said that the “Logos” — the “Word” (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”) THAT Word, that Logos… was just a creation. He taught that the Logos was the GREATEST creation that God came up with… but that it was not Divine.
But the Church was like: No! We need to have a debate about this! We need to have CONFLICT over this! We need to fight this out and say the Truth that the Church leads us into, which was — No, the Logos is not a creation. There was NEVER a time that He was not. Jesus is true God, and true man — consubstantial with the Father. He’s of one substance — the Divine substance!
That was a BIG fight. And believe it or not, most of the bishops in the world were Arian at one point. Think about that… just a handful of faithful bishops! It’s amazing that we believe what we believe today! If it was just up to human initiative, we might all be Arians. But because the Holy Spirit is alive in the Church, we believe the Truth.
Another big fight that we went through — Pelagianism. You heard about this? Pelagius said “Well, we can be holy on our own. We just have to work really hard. We just have to be really really really focused. And put all of our human effort, and God will sprinkle a little bit of grace on top of that through the good example of Jesus and the saints… and then we’ll be holy. And we’ll be saved.
And Church — especially St. Augustine was like — “NO… we need to fight about this. We need conflict… no little dissension, no debate. We need to hash this out, and get two the bottom of the Truth.”
And what did St Augustine teach us in alignment with all of scripture, and in alignment with the Holy Spirit? That we’re saved by the free gift of grace. That grace inspires us to desire God in the first place.
We can’t of our own efforts earn anything. Jesus told us: Apart from me, you can do NOTHING.” We can’t save ourselves.
That was a big fight, though.
Another big fight was over Gnosticism.
So the Gnostics thought there was this secret knowledge that only a few elite people had access to… and there were a lot of crazy beliefs that came out of this ‘secret knowledge.’ One of these beliefs was that the body was bad… that the spirit was good, but that our bodies were just something that got in the way.
And once again, the Church went into the heart, and we got into the conflict over the issue. People like St Irenaeus, in his book “Against Heresies” said: “No, we don’t believe that about the body. We believe that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and took up a REAL human nature. And by the way, this is not about some secret knowledge that only an elite few super smart, spiritual people can have access to. This is for EVERYBODY. God has spoken to the WHOLE WORLD. He’s given this revelation of His love and mercy and grace for ALL people and everyone has access to it.
We also had a pretty big fight — a big conflict — over the Protestant reformation. The Church was torn apart. The Body of Christ was shattered over fundamental questions about how we are saved. Works. Faith. About the Sacraments. About Church authority. About the pope and bishops — Over all of these questions, CONFLICT arose!
God raised up so many saints in the Counter-Reformation — the movement that
Without those debates… and without a willingness to enter into conflict, I wonder if we would believe the Truth today?
I think that conflict is really necessary. It’s really needed. Because we’re so tempted, aren’t we, just to kind of smooth things over on the surface. We can just pretend that we all believe the same thing.
We act like if we’re all just nice to one another, and just sort of get along in a superficial sort of way, then the Church is “in communion” — then there’s “peace.” After all, Jesus told us he gave us PEACE!
Is that the Peace Jesus is talking about? I don’t think so. In another place, Jesus tells us point blank: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. “
He came to separate Truth from falsehood! And there will be conflict. And there will be division! But He came that WE MADE KNOW THE TRUTH… AND THE TRUTH SETS US FREE!
The peace that Jesus is offering us is a deep and abiding peace. It comes from true communion with the Lord… with His Heart… with His teaching. With Him.
That kind of peace is not the kind of peace that the world can give us. It’s not the kind of peace that we can create on our own. And it’s certainly not the kind of peace that comes from ignoring the problems.
We try to avoid conflict at all costs — even the cost of TRUTH! We ignore those deep divides, and we allow heretical views to take root in our own hearts and we ignore it in the hearts of others….all in the name of “keeping the Peace”
But that is NOT the kind of peace that Jesus wants us to have.
I just came across something Jordan Peterson said in a YouTube video about “conflict” and the importance of conflict. He says: “I hate conflict, and I find it very stressful”
I think we can all agree with that, right? I hate conflict, and I find it very stressful.
“BUT” he says, “Conflict delayed, is conflict multiplied.”
Isn’t that interesting? If we just delay the conflict… if we just say: “No, it’ll be ok. It’ll all work out. No, all the Arians are fine. They’ll eventually figure out for themselves that Jesus is God….
All those Pelagians? — Oh, don’t worry! They’ll exhaust themselves trying to earn salvation, and meanwhile, we’ll just keep the peace and ignore the fact that they’re heretics on the wrong road.
The Gnostics???… nah, we’re not going to address that problem! That would be too confrontational. So we’ll just ignore it. We’ll keep the peace.
If we do that — if we delay the conflict — then the conflict is multiplied.
I think what Jesus wants to give you, me, our families — and the whole Church all around the world — is true Peace.
Deep Peace. The Peace that comes from being of one mind and one heart with God.
We heard in that first reading that the elders decided to write a letter to the people who were in error — those poor people were out of step with the Holy Spirit! They were out of step with the Truth! So the apostles wrote to them saying: “Since we have heard that some of our number who went out without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind — because that happened…….we WANT TO HELP YOU!
“We want to help you to be of one mind and one heart with the Holy Spirit! With God! So, here’s the actual truth.”
We have to do that as well! Especially today when there are so many mixed up ideas all around us. Some of these ideas have wormed their way into the Church. So what are we going to do? Just keep the peace?
Maybe you’ve seen the news about Archbishop Cordileone over in San Francisco. He wrote a pretty tough message — didn’t he? — to a politician who actively and publicly defies what the Church believes about abortion and the sanctity of life.
And yet she still presents herself for Holy Communion — which basically claims “Yes, I am in union with the Church and its convictions! I am of one mind and one heart with Christ!”
The Archbishop wrote a clear and firm letter explaining that she will not be admitted to communion until she repents… Until she changes her mind.
He didn’t just keep the peace did he? He didn’t just keep the peace…
And it’s gonna be hard. It’s not easy to hear for some of us, maybe? And it’s certainly not easy for her to hear that…
So we have to pray.
We have to pray for the deep and abiding peace that comes from knowing the Lord and believing in Him, and trusting Him.
So… I’m gonna pray the Roman Canon today. And in that great Eucharistic Prayer, we hear these words. I’ll leave you with these:
“Be pleased to grant her peace” — meaning the Church. “To guard, unite and govern her throughout the whole world.” And later in that prayer, we hear “Order our days in YOUR peace.”
So let’s pray that the Church would really be granted peace, and that our God would guard, unite, and govern her throughout the whole world.”