Acts 14: 19-28
But Jews came there from Antioch and Iconium and won over the crowds. Then they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the city. The next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.
After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, then on to Iconium and Antioch. There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.” And after they had appointed elders for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.
Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had completed. When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles. And they stayed there with the disciples for some time.
Psalm 145: 10-13ab, 21
All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your faithful shall bless you.
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom,
and tell of your power,
to make known to all people your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever.
John 14: 27-31a
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.
St. Augustine once said to the Lord, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, humankind has suffered as a result of our separation from God. We hurt ourselves and each other with our sins, we encounter the fallout of a broken world, and at the core of every human desire is a longing to be united to God, a longing that cannot be fulfilled in this life.
In the Gospel today, Jesus speaks about his Passion and death, which He was about to undergo. He explains that His sacrifice was necessary, both to redeem mankind from sin and to show the world His love for the Father manifested in perfect obedience, which Adam and Eve broke in the Garden. He made it possible for us to be united with God again, the way we were created to be. But perhaps the most moving part of His dialogue today is when He tells the apostles about the gift of peace He was leaving them. He knew that His friends would also suffer feeling that separation from Him, and that they had a long journey ahead before they could be reunited with Him fully in Heaven. But He assures them today that, even though He would no longer be present with them physically, it would be possible to maintain that connection to Him by embracing His peace.
Jesus’ words present both a comfort and a challenge to us. Daily life does not lend itself to peace. Between fast-paced, high-stress schedules, almost constant news of trouble close to home and around the world, and the personal burdens we carry each day, embracing the Lord’s peace requires a conscious effort on our part. In fact, if we look with worldly eyes, the call to not let our hearts be troubled can appear impossible. We might even perceive this call as another burden, causing further anxiety. But if instead we recognize it as a gift to be received, we will be able to accept the call to peace as an expression of the Lord’s love and desire to continue walking with us. We will have the strength to face whatever hardships we encounter and to see the Lord’s work in those hardships, just as St. Paul did even after the people attempted to kill him.
Take some time in prayer today to reflect on the gift of peace and how you can receive it more fully into your heart. Be assured that it is God’s will for you to walk closely with Him and to be aware of His presence by experiencing His peace in all circumstances.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for your abiding love, for dying on the Cross for me, and for walking with me no matter what I face this day. While I wait to be reunited with you fully in Heaven, I thank you for leaving me signs of your continued presence on earth, especially through the gift of your peace. Help me to receive this gift with gratitude and to allow your peace to permeate my heart and soul more each day. Amen.