“I tell you all this that in me you may find peace.” Those words of Jesus spoken to his disciples in today’s gospel grab at our hearts because peace is one thing every human being desires; indeed, the story of our lives can be read as an endless—and sometimes frantic and sorrowfully misguided—search for what we think will satisfy and content us. If we look at the trajectory of our lives, it is hard to deny that human beings are creatures of restless hearts, hungrily pursuing all the things we believe will quiet our desires and quell our deepest yearnings.
Jesus proclaims that he is the answer to our restlessness and the secret to our heart’s greatest longing. But the peace Jesus offers is eminently deeper and more resilient than a feeling that we have one day but is gone the next. The peace that we find in Jesus is the pervasive and abiding serenity that characterizes the person who has been transformed by, and become one with, the greatest possible good, and for Christians that good has a name: Jesus. This is why enjoying the peace Jesus brings requires being initiated into a certain way of life, a way of life began in baptism that Christians call discipleship. We grow into peace as we follow, learn from, imitate, and become increasingly like Christ. Of course, along the way we discover that we must relinquish any desires, attitudes, habits, or affections that can never bring us peace because they are at odds with the ways of God that are revealed in Jesus.
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: “There only will you have true peace where true good is desired.” The plot of the Christian life is to form us into the kind of persons who know true peace because we have learned to love and savor God more than anything else. When we have become that man or woman we will understand exactly what Jesus meant when he told his disciples: “I tell you all this that in me you may find peace.”
Paul J. Wadell is Professor Emeritus of Theology & Religious Studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, and a member of the Passionist Family.