“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27) Jesus knows what awaits his disciples when he speaks these words of reassurance. He knows that hard times lay ahead for all those who choose to follow Him. The challenges are great, but the promise of a dwelling place in the house of the Father is greater.
Let us not confuse Jesus’ message of peace with that of comfort or ease. He is not trying to sugar-coat what it means to be a Christian. On the contrary, Jesus invites us into life of radical but joyful sacrifice, one that if lived by the Gospel, puts us at risk for the same rejection experienced by early Christians like St. Paul, “They stoned him and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.” (Acts 14:19) By feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, visiting the prisoner, caring for Creation, we rest our gaze on the excluded where we can more clearly see the face of God.
In our world filled with constant distractions of consumption, media, and power that promise contentment, satisfaction, and happiness, it can be nearly impossible to center our hearts on Jesus’ promise of peace and love. In our modern culture the relationship of choice is not with one another or with Creation, but with stuff; the stuff we buy, the stuff we use; the stuff that we allow to defineus. Jesus warns against these false sources of fulfillment, “Not as the world gives do I give it to you,” and instead invites us to a far deeper place where the cool waters of His love give us life.
Throughout our history, Columbans surely have taken to heart Jesus’ promise of peace when faced with uninviting conditions of poverty, violence and discrimination. Committed to being in communities and with people who live in the shadows because of social, economic, political ethnic or religious identity, Columban mission is about being in relationship especially when those relationships threaten personal well-being. Unlimited by geographical boundaries, the ability to be missionary presents itself everyday by the relationships we keep. May we consider ourselves blessed to be faced with the threat of rejection and contempt as followers of Christ and builders of the Kingdom in His name. May our hearts be filled with the peace that only comes from the Father.
Amy Woolam Echeverria is the director of the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach in Washington, D.C.