"He (Christ) came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father." Ephesians 2:7,8
We Passionists celebrate the feast of St. Paul of the Cross on October 19 except in the United States. We celebrate his feast in the United States on October 20. However, I am presently in Rome, Italy, at our headquarters, the Monastery of St. John and Paul’s and the whole community celebrates this day with great solemnity and majesty. It is difficult for me not to think of this day as the feast of St. Paul of the Cross.
St. Paul of the Cross became a renowned preacher at an early age. He lived during a time (1694 to 1775) when there was a great deal of political unrest, when the Church was having difficulty addressing the needs of the people, especially the poor and at a time when many Catholics had forgotten even the most basic understanding of God as a God of Love. St. Paul of the Cross, the preacher, set out to remind people that the Passion of Jesus was the greatest expression of God’s Love for us. When the Son of God became the Incarnate Word in the Person of Jesus Christ, He came with one purpose only, to make peace between God and ourselves. As the Apostle Paul says in the first reading, "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the Blood of Christ." St. Paul of the Cross knew that we needed to be reminded, even daily, that the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ was God’s greatest act of love for us. We are now intimately united with God and in intimate communion with each other. Being at peace is a visible sign of love.
So many of us these days are not at peace. We do not feel peaceful within ourselves and we may not be at peace with a lot people or situations that are part of our lives. Even a simple disagreement or an opposing viewpoint will sometimes make us lose our patience and our peace of mind. While establishing and maintaining peace with God and with one another is noble ideal, it is not easy to accomplish. There are so many things that we are at war with that causes us to put up walls of separation with God and with each other. Creating peace and maintaining it takes a considerable amount of hard work and energy. But most of all, it takes God’s grace.
St. Paul of the Cross once wrote in one of his many letters: "Even if your whole world is turned upside down, don’t lose your peace of heart. Nothing, except sin, can separate you from God." When we find ourselves constantly at war with God and with one another, we discover that we have entered into some kind of a sinful situation. All of our human efforts to regain that peace of mind and heart begin to fail. We begin to justify our situation and find reasons why we are where we are in life. And yet, we are not at peace.
St. Paul the Apostle, in our first reading, gives us the starting point to restoring a peace-filled life. First, it is the acceptance that Jesus is the source of all peace. If we do not believe that Jesus destroyed the wall of enmity by his Death and Resurrection, then we will never have peace. Second, it is the Spirit of Jesus that gives us access to God. We need to pray to the Spirit for a life of peace and for being a peace-maker. That is our foundation for a life of peace and from that foundation, we begin building a peaceful life every day. It is around these two foundational points that St. Paul of the Cross established the Congregation of the Passion. May the Passion of Jesus Christ be ever in our hearts!
Fr. Clemente Barron, C.P. is a member of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and is stationed in Rome.