21 May 2022

No deal for the peace of the world

NB. the coffee was strong this morning, so I'll probably revisit this one for tomorrow's Mass. It's a bit. . .extra.

Audio File

6th Sunday of Easter

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP


The peace of Christ is NOT the peace of the world. Jesus himself says so. What's the difference? The peace of the world comes with accommodation and compromise; with going-along-to-get-along. We “fit in with” the world. We “settle into” the spirit of the age and float along with its currents, surrendering ourselves to the speed and direction of whatever fad or mad fashion pushes the hardest and pulls the longest. The peace of the world is narcotic. And addictive. It promises all those things that we hope will keep us safe. Safe from what? From whom? From the world itself, of course. Money keeps us safe from poverty. Power keeps us safe from slavery. Security keeps us safe from fear. But poverty, slavery, and fear belong to the world. So do money, power, and security. The peace of the world is a protection racket. “In exchange for your immortal soul,” the Spirit of the Age declares, “I promise to protect you from Me. I will give you everything you need to protect yourself from the evils I myself cause. Deal, or no deal?” The peace of Christ says, “No deal.” A heart given to Christ rests quietly in his peace. We are unaccommodating, uncompromising; we are unafraid and untroubled.

Or. . .we should be given the nature of Christ's peace. Jesus says to his twitchy disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” NB. Not only is his peace different from the world's peace but the way he gives his peace is different as well. The world's peace is a protection racket that does nothing more than protect us from the world itself. And its peace is purchased with our soul. Christ's peace is the peace which passes all understanding, keeping our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God. AND. . .it is given to us. Not sold to us, nor bartered with us, nor loan out with interest. Given. Freely handed over without obligation or attachment. While the Spirit of the Age is a loan shark and extortionist, Christ is a victim whose sacrifice frees us from sin and death. Worldly peace mires us in fear, spiritual poverty, despair, and ultimately leaves us to prostitute ourselves for the barest acknowledgment from our Betters in the world. Christ's peace frees us from fear with the already fulfilled promise of resurrection. Christ's peace alleviates our spiritual poverty with the Father's gratuitous mercy. Christ's peace destroys despair with everlasting joy, now and in the kingdom to come.

So, what about those times when we are afraid? Ready to accommodate or compromise? What about those times when it seems that despair is the only proper response to circumstance? We've all been there. Death. Disease. Natural disasters. Job loss. Marriage problems. Doubt. Personal demons, mental illness, deadly vices. Where is Christ's freely given peace in the middle of a hurricane or a divorce or a child's death or a crisis of faith? It's right where it has always been. Right there; it's right there [point to crucifix]. The Spirit of the Age, its peace, makes no sacrifice. It takes. It manipulates by nature. It feeds on fear and worry. And bets on you and me being too weak in the face of terror to resist. But Christ, Christ went to the Cross. He went to the Cross so that you and I can be raised up above all that would drag us down. He died to kill death. And death, death-eternal, is indeed dead. Loss hurts. No doubt. Loss hurts. Placed along side the peace of Christ, loss is gain. Loss binds us closer to Christ. Loss clears our eyes and ears to better see and hear the love of Christ who lost it all for our sake. The peace of the world – that peace sells us the lie that loss is avoidable. The price we pay for believing the lie is crippling debt. Debt to the spirit who would prefer we just die.

So, if the peace of Christ is so precious and useful, how do we acquire it? What novenas do we have to pray? How long do we have to fast? How big a check do we need to write? The genius of the peace of Christ is that there is nothing we have to do but receive. Nothing to give or beg or borrow or steal. Just receive. Choose to be in the peace of Christ. It is already, always given. Jesus says, “My peace I give you.” When those inevitable losses come, when disaster strikes, receive the peace of Christ. Know he is with you. Always with you. He never left. He sent his Holy Spirit to travel with us. And that spirit of love remains. Every loss is gain in the presence of the Holy Spirit. His ministry is strength, endurance, patience, and, if you will receive it, peace. We travel through this world as citizens of the kingdom. Our passport is the peace of Christ.

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15 May 2022

As I have loved you

NB. The last bit of this homily is a repeat of last Sunday's homily. 

5th Sunday of Easter

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP


Judas leaves the room. . .and then Jesus says what he needs to say, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” Why does Judas leave? And why does Jesus wait for him to leave? Judas leaves because he is on an urgent mission, a mission to sell Jesus to the temple guard. Jesus waits for Judas to leave because he – Jesus – is also on an urgent mission, a mission to die for the sins for the world. A vital part of that mission is to leave his disciples a legacy of love. They are to become preaching and teaching witnesses to his death and resurrection. Judas, who cannot love, cannot be part of that legacy. So, Jesus waits. Judas leaves. And Jesus commands his witnesses to love one another. Why love one another? So that all will know that we follow Christ. Judas does not follow Christ. He does not love Christ. He cannot bear witness to what will happen in Jerusalem on the cross and near the empty tomb. He, literally, walks out on love. He walks out on Christ to betray him for money. Judas is what happens to us when we betray Christ for money, power, popularity, standing in the world, or all of the above. He eventually hangs himself. Judas is what happens when we sell Christ to the highest bidder at the Auction of the Spirit of the Age.

So, how do we sell Christ at the Auction of the Age? Easy. First, we accept that anything and everything is for sale. Loyalty. Land. People. Our souls. We accept that anything and everything has a price. An exchange value. Then, second, we calculate how much whatever it is we have is worth to the world. Our loyalty. Our family and friends. Our immortal souls. What's it all worth? Judas calculated that Jesus was worth thirty pieces of silver. He took the deal. Upheld his end of the bargain. And decided later on that his own life wasn't worth his betrayal. Next, we find a way to think/feel our way to justifying the deal we've made. I needed that promotion. My family deserves the best. It was a small compromise, just a minor concession. I can do a lot of good in this position of power. With all this praise. I have a platform. So did Judas. His platform was a rope and a tree. Finally, we try to convince ourselves that our betrayal is what Jesus would've really wanted. He really wanted us to kneel to lies, confusion, death, and the powers of the world. He really wanted us to rebel against his Father and pretend to be gods. He really wanted us to put Now over Forever and hold ourselves up as idols of human perfection.

No! None of this is love. All of this is idolatry and pride. None of this is the Good we are made to pursue nor the Good we are made to become. It's the gospel of Judas, the Bad News of Me First, Me Last, Me Always. What Divine Love requires is that we always and everywhere will the Good of the other. Friends. Enemies. Family. Persecutors. Neighbors. Even those who intentionally do us evil. Dying, from the Cross, Jesus pleads, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” So, yes, we sell Jesus to the highest bidder when we compromise doctrine, or dilute moral teaching, or corrupt the liturgy. We sell him every time we commit a mortal sin and call it Good. These are all common enough temptations in the world. But we can also sell him and our love for him when we take up the tactics of the world to fight the world. When we put on the armor of convenience and expediency. Sure, we can win a political battle here and there. We might even win a decisive, worldly victory. But we have done so by accepting cash or applause or power in exchange for Christ. Is this the love he calls us to? No. It isn't.

We have a huge test of Christ's love coming very shortly. It seems likely that the SCOTUS will release its opinion tomorrow overturning Roe v. Wade. We can and should rejoice, if this is so. Here's the challenge to those of us who have prayed for this outcome for decades: Know who the Enemy is! Pro-abortion politicians are not our enemy. Planned Parenthood and NARAL are not our enemy. Women who get abortions are not our enemy. Not even the abortionists themselves are our enemy. Our enemy is the Spirit of the Age, the spirit that convinces them and us that death is a solution to suffering. That dark spirit feeds on anger, misery, violence, and self-righteousness. It feeds on pride and hatred and rage. As followers of Christ, we do not and cannot respond in kind to those who see themselves as our enemy. Meeting this spirit's anger with our own, or its intolerance with our own, or its violence with our own is an exercise in failure on our part and a triumph for the Enemy's recruitment program. The Enemy wants/hopes/counts on us to meet its tit with our tat. To go round by round blow for blow. Why? Because when we do so, we provide it with everything it needs to accuse us before God. To bring us before the Father and say, “See! Your sheep are no better than mine!” We respond by doing the work Christ has given us to do. We continue offering adoption services as we have for centuries. We continue providing free pre-natal care as we have for centuries. We continue supporting families as we have for centuries. And we help those women who have had an abortion recover and heal. Our response is to starve the Spirit of the Age, feeding it nothing but Christ's love, his mercy, and his peace. Without Judas the Betrayer present, Jesus says to those who follow him, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

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