“Peace is both stillness and movement. It is ceaseless freshness and complete renewal gifted to us in states of prayer, contemplation, nourishing relationships and selfless service, and by embodying courage and conscience.” James O’Dea
I was entering my early teen years in the 60’s and I often heard the words peace and love from those “hippies” my dad believed to be un-American. But their message always intrigued me, handing out flowers, sharing the peace sign and dancing and singing a lot and protesting the Viet Nam war and racial injustice. They challenged the government and in retrospect all the norms of the day. Parents were shocked and many disagreed with their children’s beliefs and actions. There was a loss of peace within some families, loss of peace within our churches and communities and our government. So much disagreement over what so many more agreed needed to change. Where was the peace? What did peace mean then and now? “Peace is both stillness and movement”
Today we are experiencing similar behaviors and beliefs from divergent perspectives. Our children are asking, no begging for peace and an end to gun violence, bereaved parents want peace and opportunity for their children and family, community leaders are asking and some young community leaders are demanding they be included in discussions and decision-making policies that would impact them. The Covid19 pandemic increased the sense of disruption in our lives on a daily basis yet we moved forward amidst uncertainty. “Peace is….embodying courage and conscience.”
With the turmoil, uncertainty and fear we have all experienced one might imagine or believe that any peace is simply not attainable. However, our faith offers real and true opportunities to be and experience peace. “ It is ceaseless freshness and complete renewal gifted to us in states of prayer, contemplation, nourishing relationships and selfless service”, this is the how, where and when of finding, being, giving and experiencing peace.
Prayer, contemplation, nourishing relationships and selfless service are all gifts and opportunities to experience peace in stillness and in movement. Prayer can be contemplative as in Centering Prayer, the prayer of listening and presence; being present with God and God being present to you. Movement of the spirit happens in prayer. There are prayers of petition when we ask for things; health, safety, passing a test, guidance or direction, protection for self and others, growth in our spiritual life, understanding when things do not make sense or to find the strength to journey through trauma or grief. We reach out to God, hopefully, as we would a good friend, cultivating and finding ways for our understanding of God to grow within our spiritual life as we age and nurture our spiritual life so it does not become stagnate.
Selfless service, can at first glance, cause one to pause and wonder what am I called to do in service? I volunteer with the Ignatian Volunteer Service Corps. After not really retiring, I felt called to do something, I just wasn’t sure what so my husband and I started exploring volunteer opportunities. This group fit us well, with consistent opportunities for group prayer, reading books that stretch us spiritually and then time for group discussion and reflection, and then actual placement to do volunteer work. It has all been by Zoom with the pandemic, however, the hope is soon to be in person. When we are intentional about our desire for the grace to understand our call, amazing things happen.
Nourishing relationships with family and friends are relationships we seek and treasure when we experience them. We find God ‘s presence in them and bring God’s presence to others. Ceaseless freshness sounds so inviting and we encounter that freshness in our everyday as we intentionally notice God’s presence, which is the Divine in the ordinary. Every time we notice God in our everyday, in the ordinary and in the extraordinary, we are experiencing ceaseless freshness.
Peace…. we desire it; we pray for it, we look for it and then we discover it is within each of us. We are created to be a peaceful presence in the world. Sometimes it just takes the journey to recognize that what we have been seeking, we have already been given, the grace of peace. “Peace is both stillness and movement. It is ceaseless freshness and complete renewal gifted to us in states of prayer, contemplation, nourishing relationships and selfless service, and by embodying courage and conscience.” This is the peace of God that is not of this world…God’s peace be with you, today and in the days ahead.