You’ve heard the phrase “freedom is not free.” This College, for example, is currently engaged in a costly lawsuit with the federal government to preserve our religious liberty. Here below, freedom is not always free, and peace is not always peaceful. The peace Christ gives in today’s Gospel must often be preserved through nerve-wracking confrontation. Peace at any cost is not peace. Consider the carnage Europe bore for not confronting Hitler early on; consider the chaos parents undergo who do not discipline their young children; consider the nervous unrest any man suffers who does not wage unceasing war on his disordered passions.
“Not as the world gives, do I give you peace,” Christ says. Peace of soul comes only after violent battles with the spirits and powers of this world; Christ’s peace reigns only when we have submitted our wills to God’s will, and know we are right with his natural order. In his will is our peace.
The World’s Peace is no Peace
The world seeks its own peace apart from God, and it remains deeply troubled. For example, in the Middle East wishing each other “peace” is the normal form of greeting: shalom in Hebrew, and as-salaam 'alaykum in Arabic. The holy city of Jerusalem itself means “Foundation of Peace,” Yarah-Shalom. But ironically, I would say scandalously, the least peaceful place on the planet has been the Middle East, precisely where God came to earth and offered mankind his peace. Our nation’s most violent day, September 11, 2001, reflected this never-ending conflict (Muslims attacked New York City, the largest Jewish population outside of Israel). Jesus prophesied this, of course: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling! Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate.” Jerusalem continues to refuse God’s word, to refuse his prophets, to refuse his Christ, and we are all of us citizens of that City—the City of Man that struggles to become the City of God. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
As America draws farther from God’s law, violence will increase as society unravels. Our country is choosing to forget the words of her own Declaration of Independence, which states that “the law of nature and nature’s God” is the basis for every freedom. Fifty years ago we accepted contraception, and forty years ago we legalized abortion, and thirty years ago we granted divorce, and twenty years ago we exalted single parenthood. Last week an NBA player admits that he engages in perverted sex and our President calls him to praise his “courage.” What our president did—placating perversion—will only bring more violence to America in the long run. We are all familiar with Mother Teresa’s phrase, “the greatest destroyer of peace in the world today is abortion.” The moral infidelity of her citizens jeopardizes America’s peaceful order more than any foreign military threat. We are a people profoundly ill at ease, and ready to erupt at the slightest provocation.
The War for Peace of Heart
Solzhenitsyn famously said that the line separating good and evil passes not through political parties but right through every human heart. Even at Thomas Aquinas College, we must wage war against the world, the flesh, and the devil. We cannot imagine our green gate on the Ojai Road keeps the world’s chaos out of our campus. Alcohol is a problem among us; blasphemy and swearing are not uncommon; the use of pornography is endemic at TAC to some degree as well. Do we imagine we can receive Christ’s peace without doing violence to these sins, and violence to ourselves? The Kingdom of God suffers violence, the Lord says, and the violent take it by force. If our friends commit these kinds of sins, we must find a way to wage the battle with them, shoulder to shoulder. With charity and patience, we must fight for peace together.
Your Mission of Peace
Your mission as students and graduates of TAC is to bring Christ’s peace to the world by bringing his truth; and obedience to that truth. This will not be a peaceful task, either personally or publicly in a culture maniacally bent on attaining a worldly peace apart from God. You will have to wield the sword of division at times, even within your own family, even against yourself. But we wield this sword always with charity, and with the goal of reconciliation and sanctification. St. John portrays the New Jerusalem for us in our second reading, from the end of the Book of Revelation. That City needs no sun for light, nor temple for worship, for the Lamb is its light and its temple. It is of that city that we must be citizens. Let us ask Our Lady to help us be good soldiers and good citizens of the New Jerusalem, the true City of Peace. In this month of May, let us dedicate ourselves to praying the rosary for true peace, the fruit of saying yes to God’s perfect will.