At Peace and In One Piece
A rich man, known for his arrogance, was not feeling well. So he went to see the doctor. “How are you, sir?” the doctor greeted him cheerfully. “What seems to be your problem?” “You’re the doctor,” the patient said with a smirk on his face. “That is for you to find out.” “Oh, I see,” said the doctor, trying his best to hide his surprise and disgust. After a few moments, he told his patient, “Well, if you can wait for some minutes, I’ll call a veterinarian. He is the only doctor I know who can make a diagnosis without asking questions.”
When we watch television, we will notice that there are many advertisements of medicines. This tells us that, despite tremendous advancements in the field of the medical sciences, more people are getting sick nowadays. Interestingly enough, many medicines advertised are to relieve pain, stress, depression and sleep deprivation.
With the present economic crisis and much uncertainty in the foreseeable future, most of us can easily resonate with Job in the first reading this Sunday. He said: “So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me. If in bed I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.” One word that can aptly describe this present generation is “stressed”.
But before we blurt out again the oft-repeated “I’m stressed out” gripe, let us first look at the Gospel. It gives us an idea of the typical day of Jesus during his public ministry: “the whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases and he drove out many demons…He went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.” If we are talking about being very busy, nobody can compare with Jesus. He was too busy that he had no time to so much as eat. That is why even his own relatives said: “He is out of his mind.” Based on our experience and standards, Jesus must be stressed out. But he was not. He was always at peace. How come?
The secret of Jesus is revealed in the Gospel today: no matter how busy and exhausted he was, he would always find time to pray and to be with His Father: “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went to a deserted place, where he prayed” (Mk 1:35). His communion with the Father gave him strength, inspiration and peace – it made him whole and focused in His mission, in fulfillment of the will of the Father.
Peace is such an elusive and priceless reality ever since. What is peace? The Bible uses the word “shalom” for peace. It is the gift of Jesus for us. “Shalom” is not just the absence of war or conflict, but also connotes the presence of harmony, unity and wholeness. It means being at peace and being in one piece.
Many of us experience restlessness and stress because we are divided within ourselves, we lack focus and so we are not in one piece. There is conflict within us. This inner conflict in us, which St. Paul describes as “the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Rom 7:23), is what makes us restless and divided. “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want Now, I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Rom 7:19-20).
When we are in sin, we are troubled. We lose our peace for we become divided within. But when we turn away from sin, and conform ourselves according to God’s will, we have peace for there is harmony and wholeness within. That is why Jesus taught us in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the single-hearted, for theirs is the kingdom of God!” Being single-hearted simply means being in one piece. And when this happens, we distinctly feel the presence of God in us. Indeed, peace is the presence of God.
The famous Archbishop Fulton Sheen said something about why people have this feeling of emptiness and restlessness. He said that God designed the human heart in the shape of a valentine heart. (We see a lot of those this February.) But God decided to divide it into two. He took half of this heart with Him to heaven, and the other half He placed in the chest of man. So, while man remains in this world, there is always that feeling of something lacking inside him, which he cannot fully comprehend. Total peace and fullness of life will only be attained when we become united with God. This is what Jesus came for: “I came that you may have life and have it to the full.” The Son of God became man like us, He descended into this world to make it possible for us to be united with God and have the fullness of life.
There is a famous song by Frank Sinatra entitled “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” At times, when we are stressed and feel so exhausted and empty, we may as well remember this song and say: “I Left my Heart in Heaven.” As God’s beloved children, we belong to heaven. In this world, we long for heaven because it is where our heart will have its wholeness. But while we are still here in this world, we will have anxieties, stress and the feeling of something lacking in us. St. Augustine had a timely realization of this: “My soul (or my heart) is restless until it rests in you, O Lord!”
The best image we can have of ourselves is that of a boy walking in the field with his father. All along the way, the boy holds the hand of his father, and with his other hand he picks up stones, or picks grains and flowers, or tries to catch butterflies passing by. His eyes are all over the vast field, and his feet are at times going in different directions. But he never lets go of his one hand holding on to his father.
As we walk in this vast field we call the world, we encounter countless distractions, varied directions and attractive choices. But let us never, even for a moment, let go of the hand of our heavenly Father. That is what Jesus did. No matter how busy and exhausted He was, He always had time to be alone and pray. That was His way of being united with the Father – and of finding peace, inspiration, direction and inexhaustible strength to continue and fulfill His mission.
When we are stressed and feel that the burden of life is just too much, perhaps it is a symptom that we are drifting away from the Father. We have to stop and find time to be with God in silence and in prayer. Jesus always invites us: “Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome and I will refresh you…Peace I leave with you; my peace is my gift to you.” May the peace and the loving presence of God be with us now and for always.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Sta. Lucia Church
J.P. Rizal Street, Bgy. Sta. Lucia
Novaliches, Quezon City 1117