Monday, May 10, 2010

Peace of the Spirit vs Peace of the World

JOHN 14: 23-29

My running coach has a problem. Wherever he leads our running group in a workout, we all follow him. We do what he tells us and follow the monthly printout of our workouts each day. But our coach is presently injured and cannot lead us in the workouts and sometimes he is not there. When this happens, the group begins to debate what workout, if any, to do, even though we have the daily training schedule mailed in advance. Without the coach we all seem to get scattered in our training and thinking. Suddenly it is too cold or too wet to do the workout. Some runners won't even bother to show up!

Jesus has the same problem with his followers, the disciples. As long as he is with them and in their face, they seem to follow him and their mistakes are minimal. But now Jesus is going away. He won't be there in the flesh to direct and lead them. He says the Holy Spirit will remind them of what they are supposed to do and lead them. That is a problem. The Holy Spirit competes with our desire to do what we want. Sometimes I want the world's peace, "peace and quiet." Leave me alone to do what I want. But the Holy Spirit calls me to be of service and enjoy a deeper, more lasting peace.

One evening I walked into a convert class. I was not there to teach. I just wanted to say hello to a friend of mine who had broken her foot, and then I would leave before the class got going. As I was leaving, I heard the coordinator say that the topic was vocation and discernment, and that the priest who was supposed to lead the class could not come. My body was trying to leave as I heard this. I just wanted to go home and read my book, and be left alone in peace. But something else in me was pulling me back into the room to be of some service. That is the Holy Spirit at work. The coordinator asked if I could talk about my vocation and discernment. I agreed. I sat down with the group and did not go home to my book. At the end of the class, I felt the peace that Jesus said he was leaving with us.

There will always be this tug between the world's peace and the Holy Spirit's peace. I suspect that Moms deal with this tug and pull all the time. They take care of the family at the same time that there is a pull to be left alone in "peace and quiet."

My mother taught me what true and lasting peace is. When I was growing up, Mom asked me to do some house chores while she went out on some errands. She left. She was not there to ensure I did what she asked. So I went for the world's peace. I sat down and put on the television to watch my cartoons. When Mom came home and found out I had done nothing, the world's peace went out the window! A little bit of effort on my part to obey would have given me a more lasting peace. I think Mom and the Holy Spirit worked together.

We don't have Jesus in front of us telling us what to do. Our spiritual struggle is to sort out the world's peace, which is often selfish and self-centered, from the peace offered by Jesus which is more service oriented toward others. The world's peace is attractive but has no depth. Jesus' peace can be less attractive at first, but has more depth to it. But I suspect that if we try and follow the Spirit, then we will be fulfilling the commandment Jesus gave which is to love as he loved.

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