In the First Reading for the Dec. 8 Mass we read from Isaiah 11: "The wolf will live with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the kid, The calf and the lion and fatling together, And a little child shall lead them."
The imagery is of a future time of universal peace. That peace has a transformative quality that can change even devilish people into saints. History is replete with examples.
Prior to his ascension to heaven, Jesus told his disciples, "I am leaving you with a gift peace of mind and heart. The peace I give you isn't fragile like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you I am going away, but I will come back to you again" (John 14.27-28).
The same peace is available to you and me. Christ's peace is not a peace given by the world. As Pope Benedict stated so concisely in his book The Infancy Narratives: Jesus of Nazareth: "The peace of Jesus is a peace that the world cannot give. Ultimately the question here is what redemption, liberation and salvation actually mean."
The world cannot give this peace because it does not understand it; it is a spiritual currency that the broken-hearted and contrite understand. Without Christ, the longing for internal peace is either illusive or counterfeit. Jesus is the author of all we know and all that is unknown.
Do not discount this important truth. It is important because even when our world seems to be falling apart, we can still have peace in Christ and salvation. His peace is rooted in forgiveness and deliverance from our sins through his sacrificial offering on the cross.
The absence of Christ's peace can (and does) turn gentle souls into cynical, stone-hearted people. The world's cruelty can sear individual and even collective human conscience. We see this in such things as abortion, child and elder abuse, euthanasia, assisted suicide and pornography that is increasingly common as society turns away from Christ and his teachings.
Despite this, and in the midst of human violence and spiritual corruption, Christ still offers his peace to all who come to know him. This peace that passes human understanding was made evident to me, even in the storms of life and the terrors of degenerative disability – especially during the terrors of degeneration.
I have found peace of mind and heart, just as Jesus promised. The darker my physical reality becomes, the more evident and certain the light of Christ.
There have been times when my disease threatened to engulf me; my prayerful cries were met with a deep peace that overtook the fear. I cannot explain it logically.
An inaudible but real message of assurance "Be not afraid, I am with you" descended upon me to overtake the raging flames of terror.
Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the Counselor. The Holy Spirit's counsel is continually pointing us to the truth of Christ as the way of eternal life. St. Paul called the Holy Spirit the "Spirit of Christ." It is the Spirit of Christ that gives peace.
Christ is the source of peace not only during the Christmas season and throughout the year, but through years and decades and centuries. The heavenly host that announced the Messiah's birth said, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those whom his favour rests."
Again, Pope Benedict commented on this passage found in the second chapter of Luke: "'God's glory' is not something brought about by men (Glory be to God). The 'glory' of God is real, God is glorious, and this is truly a reason for joy: there is truth, there is goodness, there is beauty. It is there in God indestructibly" (The Infancy Narratives, p. 74.).
The glory of God that angels sung about at Christ's birth is still available to us.
Christ's peace is glorious and good and true. It brings joy and hope. My disease and deteriorating health cannot alter any of this. There is nothing that happens to me in this world that can rob me of the eternal hope that is within me.