Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Today’s verse tells us to “strive for peace”. Normally, “striving” and “peace” are not terms we put together, just as we don’t typically speak of being “noisily sedate” or “scrambling to be content.” But the sacred author knows his business and so hits us with the arresting paradox of his words. For, of course, he understands “peace” not in the modern “spiritual” sense of “internal serenity disconnected from the mundane concerns of life” but in the practical sense understood by anyone who has ever taken care of a roomful of children or tried to chair some sort of committee. To bring peace in the midst of all the hostilities and chaos found in such situations takes more than warm feelings and the self-affirmation bromides that modern therapeutic spirituality provides. It takes a sort of moxie and stick-to-itiveness that requires a real inner center of gravity. To have such a center of gravity, it is necessary for us to know what things are most important and what things are of lesser importance. That is, we must keep our minds on heavenly things first and tend to earthly things only in the light of heavenly ones. This is one of the secrets of the saints. And like all their secrets, it is obtained not in hidden caves or by mystic revelation, but by paying attention to the common life, worship, and teaching of Holy Church. Great saints from Teresa of Avila to Mother Teresa to Pope John Paul II have found peace (and made peace) by striving for it in the midst of a hectic world and not by retiring from the world. They did it by remembering to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) and everything else (including peace) was added to them as well.