Saint Paul was obviously a pretty tough guy. I don’t know about you, but if I barely weathered the storm of people throwing rocks at me and leaving me for dead, I might think twice about how I handled my ministry. That’s nothing to be proud of, but I think that’s part of fallen human nature. How blessed we are to have the saints, like Saint Paul, to give example of how to weather the storm and live the faith and preach the word. Indeed, if it weren’t for the grace-filled tenacity of those saintly apostles, we would very likely not have the joy of our faith today.
But contrast the storminess of Paul’s stoning with the wonderful words of encouragement and consolation we have in today’s Gospel reading: “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.” We can think of all sorts of situations in which these words would be welcome. We have all experienced health problems in ourselves or in those close to us, job difficulties, family problems, and so many more. How wonderfully consoling it is to know that in the midst of the many storms we daily face, our Savior is there: offering us peace.
But the peace Jesus offers us in this reading is a bit different from what we might expect. It’s not the mere absence of conflict, nor is it any kind of placating peace the world might offer us. This peace is a genuine one, a peace that comes from the inside out, a peace that calms our troubled minds and hearts even if it does not remove the storm. There was a contemporary Christian song a few years back that said, “Sometimes he calms the storm, and other times he calms his child.”
God knows that we walk through storms every day. He experienced that first-hand in the person of Jesus as he walked our walk in his earthly life. He knows our joys and our pains, and reaches out to us in every one of them with his abiding presence and his loving embrace. He was there for Saint Paul when he was being stoned, and he is there for us too. His presence abides in us through the Church, through the holy people God has put in our lives, through his presence in our moments of prayer and reflection, and in so many ways we could never count them all. This peace from the inside out is one that our God longs for us to know, whether we are traversing calm waters or braving a vicious storm.
We pray, then, for the grace to find peace in our daily lives, the peace that comes from Jesus himself.