In the Gospel from today’s Mass, Our Lord promises His disciples, “Peace I leave with you: my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you.” (John 14:27). This is one of these verses that people get wrong because we don’t understand what Our Lord means by peace.
When the world talks about “peace”, it really means “an absence of strife”. We say countries are at peace because they’re not currently exchanging bullets or dropping bombs on each other. We say people are at peace because they’re not currently attacking each other and name calling. The world even promotes material and emotional peace that is basically another word for high self-esteem.
Our Lord’s peace, however is different. To demonstrate the peace Our Lord gives, let’s compare a couple preachers: the Osteens and St. Paul.
Just one example of the many books the Osteens have published.
If you’re not familiar with Joel Osteen and his wife Victoria, they’re preachers at the Lakewood Church in Houston, TX. According to Wikipedia, the church was originally founded by Joel Osteen’s father, but Joel has really expanded it. The current building is actually a former sports arena that seats nearly 17,000 people, and is usually packed for each service.
Sounds impressive, right? Some might wish we in the Catholic Church could do the same. The problem with Joel and Victoria is that their message is not the fullness of Christianity. Oh, they claim to be Christian preachers, but what they proclaim is more or less a self-help spirituality with Christian ideas sprinkled in.
In case you have the stomach for it, here are the most recent videos from both Joel and Victoria:
Some might say, “Well, that don’t sound too bad. After all, it starts from the Scriptures.” True, but they use the Scriptures to promote typical self-help nonsense. “Thinking with the mind of Christ” does not mean “Champion mentality” and “Enjoying the life God gave you” (from Victoria’s video). Interestingly, the video from Joel even talks about “peace stealers”, not understanding that he’s talking about the world’s peace and not God’s peace. Their message is all about “being happy”.
In contrast, let’s look at St. Paul in the first reading today. He was stoned (literally, as in having rocks thrown at him, not merely smoking marijuana) and dragged out of the city. Was he “enjoying the life God gave him” at that moment? Probably not, but he got up and went right back to his work of evangelization. Because of his faithfulness to Christ, St. Paul brought thousands of people to baptism and was one of the main driving forces behind the early Church’s rapid growth.
St. Paul realized that suffering was a part of following Jesus, but he also realized and experienced the true peace Our Lord wishes to give us. This peace is not merely a “warm fuzzy”; it’s far deeper than anything the world can give. It’s a spiritual recognition of the love of God, and the consolation that leads us deeper into our relationship with Christ. It gives us the strength to stand up the stones – whether literally or figuratively – that the world wants to throw at us. We may even be able to rejoice over the mistreatment we receive at the hands of the world as the Apostles did. (Acts 5:41) It is the grace of God working in our lives, leading us to salvation and giving us the desire to bring as many people as we can with us.
This is the peace we should desire. Not the Osteens’ worldly feel-good peace, but the true peace from Our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s the peace that can truly make us “bounce back” (to use Victoria Osteen’s words) from the stones of the world, and desire His salvation all the more.