“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” These words of Jesus are included in every Mass – shortly before we receive Holy Communion when Jesus gives himself –Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity – to us.
And isn’t this our peace, our true and lasting peace, the peace that the world cannot give?
As Catholics, our peace is to know Jesus, it is to have Jesus’ gift of himself. I am sure you have seen those bumper stickers: No Jesus, No Peace; Know Jesus, Know Peace. Those bumper stickers might be sold by evangelical Protestants, but the sentiment they express is wholly Catholic.
The Christian God is not a distant, aloof God, indifferent to our cares and concerns. Our God is Emmanuel: a God who is with us, a God always close to us. If today in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, we can eat his flesh and drink his blood – under the appearances of bread and wine – it is because the Divine Word first took on flesh and blood in the Virgin’s womb.
This weekend, we celebrate Mother’s Day – but May 13th, besides being Mother’s Day is also the 90th anniversary of Our Heavenly Mother’s appearances at Fatima in Portugal. And of course this weekend the Pope will meet the Bishops of Latin America at Aparecida, the Marian shrine of Brazil. Next year, 2008, will marked the 150th anniversary of Our Lady of Lourdes – not of this parish but of the apparitions at Lourdes.. And so, we do well to remember Mary and to remind ourselves that thanks to Mary we can know Jesus. To that bumper sticker, we can add one that might read: No Mary, No Jesus; Know Mary, Know Jesus or to use a Latin phrase of much older vintage: Ad Jesum per Mariam; To Jesus through Mary.
Lourdes and Fatima bring a message of hope to a world that had lost hope because it sought to organize itself without God. A world which shuts itself off from the supernatural, from the transcendent is a hopeless world – it is a world in which we only exist to die.
At Fatima, Our Lady urged us to repentance and prayer. She asked that we pray the rosary for peace, the peace that only Jesus can give. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” She told us to pray for the conversion of Russia – and the apparitions of Fatima occurred shortly before the Russian Revolution when communism would be imposed on the peoples of Eastern Europe and for almost a century would threaten the peace of the world.
Was it that long ago that we lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation? At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, I was in grade school in Lake Worth. You know what I remember? Us kids kneeling along side our desks, praying the rosary.
I can remember visiting Poland several times in the 1980’s, during difficult times – shortly after the assassination attempt against the life of Pope John Paul II, during the years of Martial Law in the repression that followed the suppression of Solidarity. And in what would seem to have been hopeless times, hope was kept alive – in the churches, in the prayers of those grandmothers in their babushkas, praying the rosary. What brought down the Wall? How did communism come to collapse in on itself without bloodshed, without unleashing those weapons of mass destruction stockpiled in arsenals on both sides of the Iron Curtain?
The only answer has to be those grandmothers in their babushkas praying the rosary. They sought the peace the world could not give. The world’s peace is the peace of the cemetery, the peace that is won through weapons of mass destruction. We must seek the peace that Jesus gives. In the face of weapons of mass destruction, it was the weapon of mass conversion that prevailed. That weapon was the rosary
The history of the Gulags, the millions who died because of communist persecution and misrule, would show clearly how when we try to organize the world without God, we organize the world against ourselves. When we live as if God did not matter we are left with a culture of death. That is true whether we are talking about the ideological material of Marxist-Leninism; or whether we are talking about the practical materialism of our consumer society.
But God does matter; and the human spirit longs for the divine, our souls seek the peace that the world cannot give. Certainly we witness this in the past two weeks here in Orlando with all that attention that a marble reproduction of the Pieta garnered in our secular media. Although the apparent tear marks can be explain as a natural flaw in the marble, that weeping statue reminds us that, as much as the world around us appears to be so secular, the longing for the divine is always just under the surface. St. Augustine said: our hearts were made for God and they will be always restless until they rest in God.
Well, where do we find the divine, the supernatural? We can we find that peace that the world does not give? We find it in blessed fruit of Mary’s womb, Jesus. We find it right here – in Jesus’ gift of himself, here in the Mass where heaven meets earth at the intersection of the Cross whose sacrifice is re-presented each time we obey our Lord’s command: Do this in memory of me.