Peace – Jett Villarin, SJ

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Luke 10:1-9; 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Boomerang is supposed to be a crazy pose of you that loops your motion on camera. It’s meant to be a fun alternative to the usual static photographs we post on social media. 

Boomerang is also what happens, Jesus tells us today, when you offer peace to an unpeaceable person. Your offer boomerangs back on you. He advises his disciples, “Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.”

And when your offer is rejected, you are to “go out into the streets and say, ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’” In other words, you are to “shake it off” (perhaps ala Taylor Swift), and move on. With your peace coming back to you intact, you are to make for the next town or person and make that offer of peace again. 

All this presumes of course that there is peace in you for you to offer others.

The Gospel story is subtle about the kind of peace that is borne by those who would follow Christ. In his pabaon to those he sends, we can discern at least three qualities of the peace we are to carry and give along the way.

First of all, this kind of peace that we receive and give to others is wide-eyed and alert. It may be lamb-like, but it is never naïve about danger and the dark characters who would wolf us down alive. To be sent like lambs among wolves is to remain watchful and wise about the sinister ways of the dark side. To be sent thus is to learn how to live with our vulnerability and draw true strength not from our own but from the one good Shepherd who alone can keep us safe. There will be fear and anxiety along the way, but there can be peace too in those who are sent by Christ like lambs among wolves. 

Secondly, the peace of Christ alights on the disciple who travels light, on those who “carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals.” Peace does not come from what we carry or acquire, surely not from material wealth or security or power. There is peace to be found in divesting oneself of what weighs us down. Our Lord reminds us of how blessed are they who are poor in spirit. Blessed indeed are those whose needs are not costly or compounded or complicated. The peace of Christ comes to rest on those who are free inside and who are always learning to trust in the goodness of others and in the faithful love of God.

Third and last, there is peace to be found in one’s inner compass, i.e. in one’s focus and direction in life. When Christ urges us to “greet no one along the way,” he is not asking us to be rude. He is merely counseling us not to be distracted on the way to our mission. And so it is with St Paul (in our second reading) who finds peace not by being deflected by the trappings of religion but by turning instead to what must matter ultimately to any disciple, which is to become “a new creation” in Christ. The peace of Christ is the inner serenity that flows from the passion of an undivided heart.

In sum therefore, the peace that our Lord offers to us, which we in turn are called to share with others is wide-eyed and watchful; it rests upon the lightness and freedom of one’s life; and it comes from unreservedly aligning and attaching ourselves to Christ. 

When Christ tells us how few the laborers are for so great a harvest, we learn that his peace is not a matter of numbers. We have come to sense this from our Lord’s own words about the mustard seed and the leaven in the bread. We do not find peace in mobs or majorities, and we are not fazed by the fewness of those who would stand and fight for God’s truth and justice. There is peace to be found even in laborers who are scarce but not scared to live in a world that is indifferent or opposed to the Kingdom of God. 

Let the wolves come and prowl as they please. We now know that peace does not rest on them. And the peace of Christ we offer them will just return to us anyhow.

The peace of the Lamb of God be with you.

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