The Sunday Propers: Peace in Our Time

In modern usage, “peace in our time” is a joke, a sarcastic statement condemning our shortsightedness.  We advocate peace in our time, but pay little to peace tomorrow or any day after that.  When the prayers for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany speak of “Thy peace in our time”, the first instinct might indeed be to have a bit of derision.    Today’s liturgy helps us to understand the different aspects of this peace.

The first aspect of this peace is something we tend to forget, but we must always remember:  this peace is a joyful peace.   Having peace with God should make us happy, and that should impact how we deal with the day to day affairs of the world.  Why should the tribulations of this world bother us, when they are fleeting?  Why should eternal damnation worry us, since if we remain faithful to God, our salvation is guaranteed?  The Epistle tries to get us to remember these truths.  In all that we do, we should do it as a reflection of the peace God has with us.  God wants us to give with simplicity because He gives us grace with simplicity.  He wants us to be cheerful in mercy because nothing brings Him greater joy than being able to be merciful to sinners such as ourselves.

This joyful aspect of peace is discussed in today’s Gospel, which recounts the wedding feast of Cana of Galilee.  At this feast, they run out of wine.  Psalm 104 tells us that wine gladdens the heart of men.  By running out of wine, the feast is running out of that which can bring joy to man.  In this story is given the experience of all things here on earth.  They provide peace in our time, but they inevitably fade as time changes, and today becomes yesterday.  Our society is a society that values joy and pleasure above all else, and we are miserable because we look for the wrong kind of joy and pleasure.  This isn’t necessarily a sinful pleasure, but a pleasure that is fleeting, a pleasure that cannot satisfy beyond the immediate here.

The Church is meant to respond to this situation as the Blessed Mother does:  to go to Christ and say “their source of joy is gone.”  Mary asks Christ to provide them with joy, but not like the fleeting joy they are used to.  Give them the best wine and joy possible.  How often do we ask Christ to give others joy?  We might ask for this or that intention, but how often for joy?  I don’t want to downplay those intentions:  praying that someone finds employment is a good thing.  Yet employment changes, especially in today’s economy.  Praying that they just find a job is the equivalent of “peace in our time.”  Instead, should we not pray that in addition to those intentions, we should pray they have the true joy of a relationship with God?  Should we not pray that these intentions serve as a sort of pre-evangelization, preparing them for the Gospel?

The second aspect of God’s peace is that it must be shared.  In calling for her Son to give joy to others, Mary is the first evangelist of the New Covenant.  Due to her unique gift and role in salvation history, she had a better understanding of God’s joy than most.  Being preserved by God from any stain of sin, she knows more about joy than we could possibly comprehend.  Being conformed completely to the will of God, she knows more than anyone about the kind of life God’s peace leads us to live.  When she sees a situation where people lack this joy, wouldn’t she do anything possible to rectify it?  This is the beauty of the Gospel:  the power of God is only manifested because God was asked.  Do we really ask for the conversion of all nations today?  Do we ask that they be given joy that will not fade or cannot be taken away?  Instead, are we not just asking that they be given “peace in our time?”  When you divorce the wellbeing of individuals from the Gospel (as we so often do today), that is what we are promoting.  We are promoting a peace that cannot last.  Even worse, deep down we know it, and we still sell the world a false bill of goods.  All too often we (and the Church as a whole) assume the role of Mary, but without her desire to provide true joy.  We ask for various things when we pray to God, but we aren’t asking what matters most.

What matters most is that joy leads to salvation.  The Postcommunion asks that “quickened by the divine Sacraments we may be prepared by Thy grace to obtain what they promise.”  That is the difference between the joy of Christ and peace in our time.  The latter doesn’t really change anything.  The former changes you because it calls you to something better.  The sacraments help make this something better a reality in our lives.  They help us to more and more live the life that Mary lived every day.  If we want to live a life permeated by God’s joy, we need to live like Mary in always asking that those around us experience true joy, not just peace in our time.  Let us reflect on the Mary’s example.

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Kevin Tierney is the Associate Editor of the Learn and Live the Faith Section at Catholic Lane. He and his family live in Brighton, MI. Connect with him via FB  or on twitter @CatholicSmark.

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