“I have no peace.” It’s a confidence that, at a time of particular discomfort, more than one has shown us. Perhaps the friend who had an abortion, or a spouse who was involved in an unmanageable emotional bond or a neighbor tormented by a desire to take revenge for a wrong suffered and did not succeed, or a street girl humiliated and exploited. “I have no peace”—those responsible for crimes, wars, traders of tools of death if they were not stunned by power and money, would shout. “I have no peace”—those engaging in immoral activity, those who commit injustices, but go on with the mind clouded by success, money and lies of flatterers, would repeat.
This is the world into which Jesus sends his disciples not to condemn, to curse against corruption and bad morals or to threaten divine punishment, but to announce the peace that everyone—many unconsciously—are desperately seeking.
Considering the reality we live in, it really takes a great faith to imagine that it is possible to build a world where peace reigns. It’s easier to believe that God exists than to keep hope in universal peace. Yet this is the mission entrusted to the disciples.
Christians have tried to build peace, but not always with the means suggested by the Master who wanted them to be “lambs among wolves.” Sometimes they preferred to resort to force, imposition, intolerance. They are also cloaked in power, like the kings of this world. They have not always walked—poor, meek, defenseless—alongside people in need of peace. Who—like Francis of Assisi—has done it— to have his name written in heaven.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “Those who believe in peace will see the great works of the Lord.”
The image most used in the Torah to express God’s intervention is the fire: “God is a devouring fire”—says Moses to the people (Dt 4:24); on Sinai “the Lord has come down in the fire” (Ex 19:18); “Fire goes before him” (Ps 97:3); His word “is like fire” (Jer 5:14). “And fire from the Lord came forth” (Nm 16:35). The term “fire” often occurs in the Bible. It denotes the purification brought about by his intervention. Where he arrives a radical transformation takes place, nothing stays the same.
It is what happens to every person when the Lord enters his or her life: the past is deleted. All that is incompatible with the presence and the holiness of God is obliterated: behaviors, lifestyles, beliefs, habits, bonds, difficult situations.
Elisha burns the tools for plowing, symbol of the profession he had done up to that moment, and decides to enter into the new life to which Elijah called him.
The apostles, invited by Jesus to follow him, abandon the nets and Levi leaves everything (Lk 5:27). To whoever wants to be his disciple, the Lord asks to “sell all that he has” and to start a new journey with him (Lk 18:22), and does not admit hesitation, indecision, afterthoughts.
Jesus came to bring fire to the earth (Lk 12:49): it takes a great faith to enable him to introduce himself in the enclosure of our lives. We fear that he may consume much of our securities, realities in which, perhaps for years, we have placed our trust and our hopes, that he may burn all that, until now, has given meaning to our lives.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “Lord, you are my only good. Show me the path of life.”
During a heated discussion in the temple, Jesus says to the Jews: “If the Son makes you free, you will be really free.” To one who was convinced of being a descendant of Abraham and being never a slave of anyone, these words sounded like an intolerable provocation. First they resorted to insult: “So we are right in saying that you are a Samaritan and are possessed by a demon.” Then they passed to violence: “They picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself and left the temple” (Jn 8:31-59).
What is most surprising in this episode is what is stated in the introductory verse: opponents of Jesus were not enemies, but those who believed in him (Jn 8:31).
It is therefore possible to believe in Christ and not understand and reject the liberation that he offers. This is because some become easily attached and do not want to leave slavery. They adapt, resign and decide not to embark on a journey foreseen as too demanding. And if someone approaches to help to find a way out he is angrily driven away.
The recklessness and all forms of moral corruption are easily recognized as forms of enslavement. Instead other forms of slavery camouflage themselves by conditions of freedom; they appear rewarding such as the morbid attachment to children, certainty of possessing the truth, the belief of being good people, exemplary and impeccable Christians).
Even practical atheism of one who does not want to call into question his own choices in life is slavery…. They are conditions of “non-life”, and yet one feels annoyed by those who would rid oneself of these impediments.
If Jesus had fought foreign enemies with the sword he would be recognized as a liberator, but he called “the slaves of sin” (Rom 6:20) to free themselves from their wrong life, to let die in oneself what is death. He was not understood. The same fate awaits those who continue his mission.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “I trust in the Lord and he will deliver me from the enemies that make me a slave.”